The Arizona Senate will receive the audit report on the Maricopa County election on Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. in a public presentation on the floor of the chamber, Senate President Karen Fann said.
Her announcement was sent to fellow senators after a judge on Thursday pressed a Senate attorney to tell him when the “final” report would be available.
Fann, R-Prescott, said the long-awaited audit will cover all three aspects of the examination of the county’s election results:
A hand count of the 2020 results for president and U.S. Senate, done by the Senate’s contractor, the Cyber Ninjas;
A machine count of the ballots Fann ordered in July to check against the Ninjas’ count, as she said at the time the Ninja count does not match the official results; and a review of mail-in ballot envelopes for missing or illegible signatures.
Fann and Senate Judiciary Chairman Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, will conduct the livestreamed meeting with senators, who will attend either in person or via Zoom. Petersen later will convene his committee “after everyone’s had a chance to go through the audit,” Fann said.
The Senate also will release the report publicly that day, Fann said in an interview.
The session will be open to the public, with seating available on a first-come, first-served basis in the Senate gallery. Hearing rooms are not available because of ongoing construction work.
The audit began in late April; counting and other work concluded at Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the state fairgrounds in late July. But the results of the unprecedented partisan recount have yet to be disclosed.
Cheerleaders of the audit, including Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, have repeatedly suggested the results are forthcoming over the weeks since the ballots were returned to Maricopa County in late July.
As far as she’s concerned, Fann said, next week’s release is the final version of the audit. A Senate demand for the county’s routers and passwords used to access the Dominion voting machines is still outstanding and the county faces a Sept. 27 deadline to hand them over or face financial penalties.
If the Senate does receive those materials, the Ninjas can go back and amend their report, Fann said. There would be no extra cost to the state, since that review is part of the Ninjas’ contract with the Senate, she added.
Judge’s question led to release date
An attorney for the Senate was in front of Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp on Thursday as part of a lawsuit seeking emails, text messages and other documents related to the audit. Kemp asked when the report would be released.
Senate lawyer Kory Langhofer initially chuckled when asked and said he was not authorized to say but would answer if Kemp directed him to, which Kemp did.
“They are planning to release the final report a week from tomorrow,” Langhofer said, adding that the Senate does not yet have a draft from Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based company contracted to oversee the audit.
“Well, I should be precise about this,” Langhofer continued. “I believe the Senate is in possession of, or its agents are in possession of, a draft report but not from Cyber Ninjas. There were some ancillary reports, but the main one the Senate does not have yet.”
Fann said she does not want to receive a draft report because journalists will try to obtain it through public-records requests.
But Langhofer and Senate staff attorney Greg Jernigan will review the report before the Sept. 24 release to redact portions that a Maricopa County Superior Court judge said cannot be released, such as ballot signatures or images of ballots.
A lawyer for American Oversight, a left-leaning watchdog group that sued the Senate for communications, said the draft materials should be released to the public immediately, but Kemp did not address that issue.
He instead scheduled a later hearing to address what documents the Senate could legally withhold from the public.
Wait for public records continues
The Senate has turned over tens of thousands of documents in response to the lawsuit from American Oversight and a separate case brought by The Arizona Republic. But so far, the Senate has withheld more than 2,000 documents it claims are protected by “legislative privilege” and don’t need to be released by the lawmakers.
American Oversight lawyer Keith Beauchamp said he was concerned the Senate was not acting swiftly enough to produce those records now that the Supreme Court has decided not to take up the matter, instead upholding a lower court’s order to produce those records.
“From our perspective, we need to have some understanding … about what records they are getting and when they are getting them from Cyber Ninjas and the subcontractors,” Beauchamp said.
Langhofer said as soon as the Supreme Court decision was known, the Senate sent a letter to Cyber Ninjas requesting the records.
“We are working to get these documents as quickly as possible,” Langhofer said.
He said Cyber Ninjas was reviewing the request from the Senate for the documents and expected to respond by Thursday afternoon. He said he expects Cyber Ninjas to turn over all pertinent documents to the Senate, which has hired 10 attorneys to review the 60,000 or so documents and determine which should be public and which should be withheld.
But he wasn’t sure about Cyber Ninjas complying.
“They are not our clients, right? So we are waiting for them to tell us whether they will comply and when,” Langhofer said. “I suspect they will.”
Kemp ordered the Senate to file a status report by 5 p.m. Friday on which documents Cyber Ninjas has provided and the timeline of when they all will be provided to the Senate, including whether Cyber Ninjas intends to comply with directions to collect documents from subcontractors that also worked on the audit.