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AZ Supreme Court Will Decide In 3 Weeks If Election Audit Records Will Go Public

The Arizona Supreme Court says it will not decide the issue of whether Maricopa County ballot audit records, in the hands of the contracted firm Cyber Ninjas, are subject to public disclosure until at least Sept. 14.

The court’s order is at least an interim setback for American Oversight, the self-proclaimed watchdog organization that filed suit earlier this year seeking all records related to the audit.

"We are nevertheless confident in our case,'' Austin Evers, the organization’s executive director, said.

But since the justices are agreeing to review the appellate court order that the documents need to be made public, it indicates that there may be some merit to the Senate attorney Kory Langhofer’s arguments that his client is not required to obtain — and publicly disclose — documents not in its possession.

What the court ultimately decides could set a precedent for all future public records cases.

Previously, American Oversight filed suit in May, more than a month into the audit, demanding all records created, sent and received not only by the Senate but the Senate's agents. That includes Cyber Ninjas which has been working under a $150,000 contract to review the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County this past November, compare the results of the presidential race with what was officially reported, and examine the voting equipment used to look for flaws and signs of tampering.

"The records sought will shed light on, among other things, the planning and procedures of the audit, findings and conclusions of the audit team, costs and payment to entities and individuals associated with the audit, and the overall integrity of the audit process,'' wrote attorney Roopali Desai. And she argued that prompt disclosure is necessary.

"The public's right to see these public records is significant and immediate,'' Desai said.

Langhofer said the Senate recognizes its obligation to produce records actually held by the Senate, with exceptions for those which may be protected due to things like privilege or confidentiality. But he argued there is no obligation of the Senate to produce records that it does not have, meaning those in the hands of Cyber Ninjas.

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Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.