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Senate Republicans Alter Demand For 2.1 Million Maricopa County Ballots

After a judge ruled an Arizona Senate subpoena of the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County last fall was valid, the county’s Board of Supervisors said it would comply. For the county’s elections department, that meant spending Monday and Tuesday stacking sealed boxes of ballots on pallets, in preparation to ship the ballots to the Senate building at the Arizona Capitol.

That’s what the subpoena, issued by GOP Senate leaders on Jan. 12, demands.

Now senators claim it was never their intention to store millions of ballots in their offices at the Capitol. Instead, they want the county to open up its own facilities — where the ballots are already stored in accordance with state law — to so-far unidentified auditors who will conduct the Senate’s own review of the 2020 general election.

By preparing to deliver the ballots to the Senate,  county officials were following specific instructions provided in a subpoena signed by Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert). The subpoena demanded that the county Board of Supervisors and the county recorder appear at the state Senate building the morning of Jan. 13. It also demanded that county officials produce a trove of voting materials to senators, including all the ballots cast in the 2020 general election, “at the date, time, and location set forth above.”

“The subpoena commands the Board produce documents and equipment and deliver them to 1700 W. Washington,” county spokesman Fields Moseley wrote in an email to Megan Gilbertson, communications director for the elections department. “There has never been a discussion or agreement to conduct another audit on Maricopa County property and that is not what the subpoena compels.”

Mike Philipsen, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, said their attorney made it clear senators never intended to have the ballots delivered to the Senate. But an email exchange between attorneys for Senate Republicans and Maricopa County shows the county wasn’t made aware of that until Monday.

In an email sent late Monday afternoon, attorney Kory Langhofer wrote that “the Senate’s preference is to maintain the materials in the county’s facility” — at least until the Senate can arrange its own accommodations to store the ballots, he wrote, or work out an agreement with the county that would allow Senate auditors access to the county’s facility.

Langhofer wrote that Republicans hope to settle on a plan “in the next few days.”

Maricopa County supervisors, who held an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss what they described as “newly received information,” have reservations about the Senate’s proposal to use county facilities for the Senate’s own audit, according to Moseley. 

Moseley noted the county just wrapped up two audits of the election in February, audits that senators were invited to observe. Now the county has other elections to run, and allowing Senate auditors access to the elections department could interfere with those duties.

“The Board has serious concerns about allowing anyone other than Election Department and County Recorder staff into sensitive areas during the current Goodyear election and other municipal elections scheduled during 2021,” Moseley wrote in his email to Gilbertson.

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.