PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- A temporary pause on the Arizona GOP election audit ordered by a judge Friday is off after the Arizona Democratic Party says it will not post a $1 million bond that the judge requested to cover any expenses that the Senate is caused by the halt.
The price tag was too steep for the party to bear, Democrats said, letting the audit continue while leaving in place the judge’s orders that the Arizona Senate and its auditors follow state law on ballot secrecy and voter privacy. A statement from Arizona Democratic Party Chair Raquel Teran called the $1 million bond, "laughable" citing the lack of transparency as to the actual cost of the audit.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury ordered the Senate auditors to produce their training materials and policies before a Monday hearing, and ordered them to strictly follow state law as they do a hand recount of 2.1 million ballots.
The audit is being conducted on behalf of Republicans who control the state Senate, who have hired Cyber Ninjas, a cybersecurity firm with no election experience owned by a man who shared unfounded allegations of election fraud on his since-deleted Twitter account.
The part of the order that would have halted the recount between 5 p.m. Friday and noon Monday won’t be enforced because the Arizona Democratic Party did not want to risk $1 million for the brief halt, attorney Roopali Desai said.
“The reality is there are many parts of Judge Coury’s order that are really important and that we’re really applauding,” especially the fact the auditors are being required to produce policies, procedures and training materials on how they do the audit, Desai said.
“All those things are going to happen, regardless of the $1 million bond,” she said. “The bond was limited to this issue of halting the audit for this short period.”
A lawyer for the Senate, Kory Langhofer, had asked that any halt be delayed so he could immediately appeal.
Desai had urged the judge to act, saying the Senate outsourced the audit to Cyber Ninjas and the company was just making things up as they went along. She said there’s no evidence the audit was following state law on ballot secrecy or security.
The Arizona Secretary of State wants the state attorney general to investigate the security lapses at the site of the election audit.
“The Senate has told us that they are running this so-called audit, but they had abdicated their duty entirely to rogue actors who are making a mockery ... of our election laws and our procedures,” Desai told the judge. “There’s no safeguards in place. There’s no proper training, there’s no procedures, no rules.”
Among Desai’s concerns was the use of blue pens by people counting ballots, which emerged as the recount was set to begin Friday. State law bans black and blue pens from ballot counting rooms because those colors can be read by machines and voters are instructed to use them.
Coury said he doesn’t want to micromanage another branch of government, but the court must protect the constitutional rights of voters.
“Let me be very clear — the audit will proceed,” Coury said.
Also on Friday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sent a letter to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, asking his office to investigate potential violations of Arizona law over the Senate's audit.
There is a lack of security at the building where the documents and machine are housed.
Hobbs response is following an article from Arizona's Family on Thursday regarding security issues at Arizona Senate's election audit at the State Fairgrounds.
Arizona's Family Investigative team uncovered a number of security lapses at the State Fairground site where the audit is taking place, raising questions about the efforts being made to secure and protect the process and Maricopa County voters.
The Arizona Democratic Party and the lone Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors filed suit on Thursday saying Senate GOP leaders are failing to uphold their promises to maintain ballot secrecy and voter privacy. Those assurances were given by Senate President Karen Fann and Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen earlier this year when a judge ordered the county to hand over all 2.1 million ballots and the machines used to count them.
Repeated reviews of the election results have found no issues that would overturn Biden’s narrow victory in Arizona. Last month, Maricopa County released the results of two new audits of its equipment that showed no malicious software or incorrect counting equipment and that none of the computers or equipment were connected to the internet.
Experts on election administration and security have expressed alarm at the Senate’s audit, which they say isn’t following standard procedures to transparently and accurately count votes.
Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan has said his personal views are irrelevant because he’s running a transparent audit, with all activities captured on camera and some of them livestreamed online.
But he’s refused to reveal who’s counting ballots or allow the media to observe the process. He’s acknowledged that the $150,000 the Senate agreed to pay him won’t cover his costs, but he’s refused to say the audit’s price tag. Cyber Ninjas is accepting donations from a fund organized by a conservative cable channel, One America News Network, but Logan won’t disclose the donors.
“If we go through here, and we don’t find any fraud, I will be ecstatic. I’m going to love that, and I want to be able to tell people that,” Logan told reporters Thursday night. “If we go through here and we find fraud, I want to fix it, so that our country’s democracy works.”
People who doubt the election haven’t been convinced by the overwhelming evidence to date that it was fair, so they’ll be unlikely to have their concerns assuaged even if Logan declares everything was above board, said Tammy Patrick, senior adviser at the Democracy Fund and a former Maricopa County elections official.
“There’s absolutely nothing that’s going to convince them of that fact,” Patrick said during a call with reporters Friday. “So to what end are we doing this, really?”