In a defeat for the Republican-led Arizona state Senate, the state’s Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to overrule decisions from lower courts forcing the chamber to release records and other documents related to the election audit in Maricopa County to a watchdog group that sought them, as the Washington Examiner notes.
As a result of the decision, GOP efforts to avoid disclosure of records requested by liberal-leaning watchdog group known as American Oversight are at an end, and an earlier stay issued by the panel halting enforcement has been dissolved.
The underlying controversy arose when the Senate declined to turn over documents related to the audit of the 2020 presidential contest in Maricopa County that have been in the possession of the chamber’s chosen contractor, Cyber Ninjas, as well as other subcontractors involved in the review.
Lawyers for the Senate claimed that the requested documents, which encompassed details about donors who helped pay for the audit, are not subject to public disclosure regulations, since they were in the possession of non-public contractors.
The Arizona Court of Appeals decision – which the Supreme Court refused to overturn – stated, “There is no dispute that the audit is being conducted with public funds, and that Cyber Ninjas and its sub-vendors are agents of the Senate. In this case the Senate has argued no exemption that, if properly recognized, would shied itself from the responsibility to inform the public of activities regarding the audit.”
Upon issuance of the decision, Republican Senate President Karen Fann indicated that she was making preparations to comply fully by releasing the documents at issue, as the Arizona Republic reported.
“What concerns me more,” Fann told the Republic, “is the fact that this ruling could open up a whole new precedent of two private companies having to divulge private communications between themselves and anyone that asks under a (public records) request.”
American Oversight executive director Austin Evers hailed the court’s decision, declaring that Arizona voters can now “look forward to much-needed transparency,” and that the “Arizona Senate’s legal maneuvering to conceal these records from the public matches the outrageousness of their so-called audit. That ends today.”
Though the outcome of the highly-contentious audit process that has dragged out for months amid a series of court fights has yet to be revealed, the Examiner reports that the audit group anticipates submitting a full draft to the state Senate as soon as this week.