By Zachary Stieber
An Arizona judge on April 28 rejected an attempt by the Arizona Democratic Party to immediately halt an audit of the 2020 election in the state’s largest county.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin said Democrats didn’t provide “substantive evidence of any breaches or threatened breaches of voter privacy.”
The lawsuit, filed just before the audit started last week, may ultimately succeed, the judge added. But it fell short of the “strong likelihood” of succeeding standard required for a temporary restraining order.
Martin also expressed doubt that the balance of hardship in the case or public policy favors the plaintiffs—two factors that are needed to grant the order.
Arizona Democrats must now decide whether to seek a review of the ruling from a higher court or to advance to an evidentiary hearing to try to make their case for an injunction.
Lawyers for the party had argued that Cyber Ninjas, 1 of 4 firms hired by the Arizona Senate to conduct the audit, didn’t properly train their personnel and hadn’t implemented plans for security procedures, such as securing ballots.
But the exhibits they entered, including local news reports alleging lax security at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the audit is taking place, didn’t contain enough evidence to convince the judge to halt the process.
Martin said he took into account how the audit has already started and that halting it would cause a “significant disruption.”
Earlier in the proceeding, the judge ruled against Cyber Ninjas’ attempt to file under seal documents the company described as sensitive. The company failed to show an overriding interest exists that supports filing under seal and overcomes the right of public access to the information, he ruled.
The hearing took place one day after Martin, who assumed the case after the previous judge recused himself, decided against halting the audit. But he also said he could stop it during the next hearing, stoking further interest in the April 28 proceedings.
Defendants have asserted that the coliseum and approximately 2.1 million ballots being reviewed, along with machines used in the election, are properly secured.
Former Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett, tapped by the state Senate to be the audit liaison, told reporters that the facility is under armed guard 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Only he and one other person have keys to unlock the containers the ballots are being held in when they’re not being counted, he added.
“We have to do everything we can to protect the sanctity of the ballot box. We’re never going to get 100 percent of the people to agree on who should win the election, but we should have as close as possible to 100 percent of the people who have confidence that the election process was done with integrity, and that’s what we’re here to do,” Bennett said during an April 27 press conference.
Critics including Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs have called the audit unnecessary, pointing to reviews done after the 2020 election that uncovered little fraud.
“It’s clear now that there’s really nothing valid that’s going to come out of this exercise,” Hobbs, a Democrat, said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” on April 27.
“All this is going to do is continue to undermine voters’ confidence in the process.”
Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, appearing on Newsmax around the same time, accused Democrats of trying to delay the audit. “They’re trying to throw as many problems into the process that they can to slow this down,” she said.
John Brakey, co-founder of Audit USA and a progressive Democrat, was appointed by Bennett as assistant liaison to try to stem some criticism from the left of the audit. Brakey told reporters that the 2020 election was not audited before.
Even the hand-count audit of the primary election only reviewed 1 percent, or 25 ballot batches, Brakey noted, in contrast to the full review currently going on.
That count took roughly 100 people appointed by county party chairs about a day and a half, a county spokeswoman told The Epoch Times via email.
Workers in the current audit have counted about 100,000 ballots as of April 27, according to Bennett.
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