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Arizona Senate seeking contempt charge in election fight

February 3, 2021 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — Republicans who control the Arizona Senate are moving ahead with their threat to pass a contempt resolution finding Maricopa County has failed to comply with a subpoena demanding access to elections equipment and ballots cast in the November election.

The Senate introduced the resolution Wednesday afternoon. Timing on a full Senate vote is unclear, but all 16 Republican senators are listed as sponsors, meaning it is virtually certain to pass.

If the resolution is enacted, the five members of the county board could be arrested for failing to comply. It authorizes Senate President Karen Fann to take “all legal action” needed to enforce the subpoena.

The Republican-dominated board on Tuesday again refused to comply with subpoenas GOP lawmakers issued as they try to show that fraud or other election misdeeds led to Democratic President Joe Biden’s win in the state. Courts rejected eight lawsuits filed by backers of former President Donald Trump after his loss, finding there was no evidence that he did not lose.

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The Senate has demanded access to voting machines and all 2.1 million ballots cast in the election. The board has said it can’t comply because ballots are sealed by law and the voting machines the Senate wants to examine need to remain secure.

Board Chairman Jack Sellers said Wednesday he was frustrated that the Senate was threatening to find the board in contempt, saying he met personally with Senate President Karen Fann and thought both sides agreed to try to settle the issue.

“I want to be clear: the county will participate in any court hearing with the Senate if they plan to argue the restrictions on ballots should be waived,” Sellers said in a statement. “Instead of suggesting that we are violating the laws the Legislature wrote, they should turn their attention to finding a solution.

“If they truly believe in the legality of their position, they will join us in seeking a solution through the courts,” Sellers said.

Steve Gallardo, the only Democrat on the board, slammed the move.

“It’s shameful that the Arizona Senate issued subpoenas based off unfounded conspiracies for an election that happened 92 days ago,” he said in a statement. “It’s worse that some members are now doubling down in pursuit of these falsehoods by considering contempt charges against a body they once promised to partner with.”

The supervisors have repeatedly pointed to multiple tests of the voting machines done before and after the election and hand counts of a sample of ballots that showed the count was accurate. They fought subpoenas issued in December by the Senate Judiciary Committee with the backing of Senate President Karen Fann in court.

New subpoenas were issued after a new Legislature was sworn in on Jan. 11. No new proceedings have been initiated by either side.

Still, the board voted last week to do their own audits, checking to determine if the software in voting machines is intact and they were not subject to hacking or connected to the internet.

Republican Sen. Warren Peterson said that audit falls far short of what lawmakers want examined.

Documents released Wednesday by the county show that Fann has hired a firm with strong connections to the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn election results in multiple battleground states to do its audit. The Allied Security Operations Group worked with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to raise baseless allegations of election fraud and counting errors in Arizona and other states.

The documents outline the work the company would do for the Senate if they are allowed access to ballots and election equipment, including recounting at least 550,000 ballots and collecting “forensic images” of software used in ballot counting machines.

GOP county Supervisor Bill Gates issued a statement saying “I will never be in favor” of turning over ballots without a court order.

“Not only is it illegal under Arizona state law for this Board to turn over custody of the ballots, it is also unfathomable that the Arizona Senate has hired a known, and frequently debunked, conspiracy theorist to conduct their audit,” he said in a statement that he also posted on Twitter.