Maricopa County audit count

Officials drop off ballots at Phoenix's Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Thursday.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) - The Arizona Democratic Party and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallego are trying to halt the state Senate's audit of the 2.1 million ballots from the November election. They filed an emergency restraining order on Thursday, a day before the count is supposed to begin. 

The last-ditch lawsuit alleges Republican Senate President Karen Fann and another GOP senator promised a judge that they would protect the secrecy of the ballots and voter privacy before he ruled the Senate could access 2.1 million voted ballots and the tabulation machines used to count them. A court hearing is set for Friday morning.

But the lawsuit alleges that Fann and Sen. Warren Peterson’s assurances were “illusory” because they’ve outsourced the recount to an “inexperienced third party with clear bias.”

"The sole reason for this lawsuit and injunctions is to protect the sanctity of the ballots and, more importantly, to preserve voters' privacy from a sham audit that has been corrupted by agitators and conspiracy theorists," Gallego said in a tweet. Gallego is the only Democrat on the five-person County Board of Supervisors. The Board decided not to appeal a lower-court ruling that allowed the Senate to conduct the audit. Sen. Rebecca Rios, the head of Senate Democrats, called the audit a "temper tantrum" and said the audit is "damaging to the integrity of our elections and our democracy."

The lawsuit filing comes on the same day as officials delivered the millions of ballots to Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix for recounting. The Board of Supervisors said the audit wouldn't be done at their facilities. The Board, along with multiple views and court rulings, has said that President Joe Biden won the election fairly and the count was done accurately.

Fann said in a brief comment that the ballots are protected by bonded and certified 24-hour security forces, kept in locked cages and a public live stream is on 24 hours a day.

Besides Fann and Peterson, the lawsuit names Ken Bennett, the former Arizona secretary of state who is acting as a liaison between the Senate and the contractors, and Cyber Ninjas. That’s the firm that is leading the audit and led by Doug Logan, a backer of unfounded theories that contend former President Donald Trump lost in Arizona and other battleground states because of election fraud.

The operation will be live-streamed by the pro-Trump, right-wing television network OANN, which helped raise some of the money used to finance the audit and recount. It will also be streamed on the https://azaudit.org/ website.

The Senate is paying Cyber Ninjas $150,000, and an OANN host helped raise at least another $150,000 for the effort.

Bennett, in a recent interview, vowed to ensure that the audit is as fair as possible, despite concerns that Cyber Ninjas founder Logan has embraced Trump and expressed doubt that Biden won.

“I don’t know if he’s specifically embraced ”Stop the Steal,” but yes, there are people that are questioning his opinions and whether they are going to affect the audit,” Bennett said. “And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that we audit the election and not the contractor’s opinions.”

 

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