Judge won't force Maricopa County to obey election subpoena

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PHOENIX — A judge in Phoenix on Wednesday rejected an effort by legislative Republicans to force the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to comply with a sweeping subpoena demanding access to voting machines, copies of all mail ballots and other materials from the election that saw President-elect Joe Biden win Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.

Superior Court Judge Randall Warner said lawmakers did not follow the appropriate procedures to enforce a legislative subpoena, but he invited them to refile their case. However, the ruling is a setback to the effort by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth and Senate President Karen Fann to get access to materials in time to audit them and send a report to Congress before Electoral College votes are counted on Jan. 6.

The dispute is another chapter in efforts by President Donald Trump and his supporters to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election in Arizona and several other states he lost. The GOP lawmakers say they want the county to turn over voting machines and records so the Legislature can audit Maricopa County’s handling of the election.

No evidence of widespread voter or election fraud has emerged in Arizona, which has seen eight lawsuits challenging the results of the state’s presidential vote fail. Claims of sweeping voting irregularities made by Trump backers in Arizona and several other battleground states have mainly been rejected.

The Board of Supervisors, which is controlled by Republicans, voted 4-1 last week to fight the subpoena and filed a lawsuit asking for a judge to decide whether they must comply, saying lawmakers are illegally seeking access to private voting information.

The lawmakers then filed their own emergency lawsuit on Monday asking Warner to force the county to comply, hoping to speed up the process.

“They are allowed to investigate and see what the facts are and make a decision, just like a grand jury,” said Kory Langhofer, a lawyer for Fann and Farnsworth.

Stephen Tully, a former Republican lawmaker representing the Board of Supervisors, said the lawmakers aren’t entitled to the court order they seek, known as a writ of mandamus, nor are they entitled to send an unknown auditor to tinker with voting machines.

“What they’re trying to do is unconstitutional. It’s illegal,” Tully said.

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