Judge Rejects Request to Halt Arizona’s 2.1 Million Ballot Audit

The Republican-led Arizona Senate conducts a 2.1 million ballot audit at the Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum on April 22, 2021 (Photo credit: AP)

An Arizona judge on Wednesday, April 28, rejected an attempt by the Arizona Democratic Party to immediately halt an audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin said the Democrats have not provided “any substantial evidence of invasion or threatened invasion of voter privacy.”

The judge added that the lawsuit, which was filed before the audit began last week, may ultimately be successful. But it does not meet the “highly probable” standard of success required for a temporary restraining order.

Arizona Democrats must now decide whether to seek a review of the ruling by a higher court or advance to a hearing to try to explain that their injunction should be enforced.

Lawyers for the Democrats claim that Cyber Ninjas, one of four companies hired by the Arizona Senate, did not properly train its personnel or implement a plan for security procedures, such as securing ballots.

But the evidence they presented, including local news reports alleging inadequate security at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the audit was conducted, did not contain enough evidence to convince the judge to stop the process.

Martin said he took into account that the audit had already begun and that stopping it would cause “significant disruption.

Earlier in the proceedings, the judge ruled against Cyber-Ninjas’ attempt to file what the company described as sensitive documents under seal. He ruled that the company had failed to prove the existence of an overriding interest in supporting sealed documents and that it violated the public’s right to access information.

The hearing came a day after Martin, who took over the case after the previous judge recused himself, decided not to stop the audit. The state Democrats filed an emergency request on April 22 to stop the county’s ballot audit. Curry approved the request on April 23, but only if the party posted a $1 million bond. Because the Democrats refused to pay, the audit went forward.

On April 25, Curry announced his recusal after learning that attorney Chris Viskovic had joined the case because of his previous working relationship with the attorney. Since then, Judge Martin has taken over the case.

The defendants claim that the stadium and the approximately 2.1 million ballots being reviewed, as well as the machines used in the election, were properly secured.

Former Republican Secretary of State Ken-Bennett, who was appointed by the state Senate as the audit liaison, told reporters that the facility was guarded by armed personnel 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He added that only he and one other person have the key to open the container where ballots are stored when they are not being counted.

“We must do everything possible to protect the sanctity of the ballot box.” Bennett said at an April 27 news conference, “We can’t get 100 percent of the people to agree on who should win the election, but we should have as close to 100 percent as possible to believe that the election process was fair, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

A spokeswoman for Maricopa County told via email that the county’s audit staff had counted about 100,000 ballots as of April 27.