Court Blocks Public From Seeing Some Arizona Election Audit Records

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Trevor Schakohl Legal Reporter
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The Arizona State Supreme Court determined Wednesday that some state Senate communications about the Trump-endorsed 2020 Maricopa County election audit could be kept from public view.

The Arizona state Senate commissioned the now-defunct company Cyber Ninjas to audit the 2020 election in Maricopa County. The Arizona Supreme Court declared that the Senate could use legislative privilege to keep some withheld or redacted internal Senate communications and additional records related to the matter private, overturning a lower court ruling.

The ruling could conceal emails about why state legislators ordered the audit to begin with. While the court specified that its Thursday decision only applied to internal state Senate communications, it said legislative privilege protections can extend to legislative contractors like Cyber Ninjas.

About 1,000 emails, text messages and other communications were withheld by the ruling, The Associated Press reported.

A trial court had previously found the state Senate effectively forfeited its legislative privilege rights through public statements about the audit, publishing Cyber Ninjas’ comprehensive report and conducting a public hearing. The state Senate already disclosed about 22,000 audit-related records after an appeals court labeled them public records that could be requested for disclosure.

The Arizona Supreme Court ultimately said legislative privilege can cover some communications unrelated to current legislation, ruling that the state Senate’s use of constitutional and statutory authority to investigate the 2020 general election was privileged legislative action. (RELATED: REPORT: Arizona Democrat Pleads Guilty To Alleged Ballot Counting Operation During 2020 Election)

Arizona State Senate President Karen Fann was one of the officials who contracted Cyber Ninjas’ audit and a petitioner in the Supreme Court case.

“This decision finally recognizes the broad application of legislative privilege and restores procedural sanity after the lower courts’ casual dismissal of the Senate’s claims of legislative privilege,” Fann said in a press release provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We absolutely believe in transparency, however, there are times when legislative privilege should be exercised so that we can do the jobs that the people of Arizona elected us to carry out.”

The Cyber Ninjas’ Maricopa County audit report was released last September, and the investigation found that President Joe Biden defeated former President Trump there by a slightly greater margin than previously believed but also alleged potential irregularities. Maricopa County’s Republican-led government later reported Cyber Ninjas made 13 “demonstrably false” claims, 41 inaccurate ones and 22 misleading claims.

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