Brnovich to probe Maricopa County’s 2020 election

Attorney General Mark Brnovich speaks at the 2020 Converge Tech Summit at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Attorney General Mark Brnovich is taking up Senate President Karen Fann on her request for an investigation into the findings of the Cyber Ninjas’ audit report. 

On Monday, his office’s Election Integrity Unit sent a letter to the Senate asking for supporting documents from the Cyber Ninjas’ audit report released on Friday, according to a news release from Brnovich’s office. Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright also sent a letter to Maricopa County officials asking them to preserve all documents and data related to the 2020 election, saying she expects to need them as part of the investigation. 

“The Arizona Senate’s report that was released on Friday raises some serious questions regarding the 2020 election,” Brnovich said. “Arizonans can be assured our office will conduct a thorough review of the information we receive.” 

Wright is asking the Senate to turn over unredacted copies of all reports; evidence supporting some of the findings, including subcontractor Ben Cotton’s claims about files being deleted and county elections devices connecting to the internet and Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai’s allegations about inadequate signature verification; and an opportunity to meet individually with the contractors and subcontractors who prepared the audit report.  

Wright is also asking the county to preserve a long list of election-related records, including ballots, election equipment, electronic data related to election systems, security camera footage and building access records. 

Fann, R-Prescott, wrote to Brnovich on Friday, sending him a copy of the report and asking for an investigation. Much of her letter was focused on criticizing Maricopa County officials for not cooperating with the audit and listed changes to election administration she would like to see in response to the audit’s findings, such as a more stringent signature verification process, “constant, unrelenting maintenance” of voter rolls and state oversight of cybersecurity for elections. 

Brnovich has come in for criticism from Trump supporters and from former President Trump himself for acknowledging President Biden’s win in Arizona. However, he has backed the Senate’s authority to conduct the audit and its legal positions, such as siding with the Senate a month ago in a subpoena dispute with Maricopa County. On Friday, he put out a two-sentence statement saying he would “take all necessary actions that are supported by the evidence and where I have legal authority.” 

Kelly Townsend

In addition to the investigation announced Tuesday, Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, submitted a request for Brnovich to investigate some questions raised by the auditbut he quickly put an end to it. Commonly known as a “1487 request” after the law that gives legislators the power to ask the AG to investigate government entities for possible violations of state law, Townsend asked Brnovich to look into a wide range of issues. Among them are questions about the paper used for ballots, the signature verification process and the voting machines. 

“I am not satisfied with unanswered questions and unreported issues,” Townsend said. “I want to know what laws were broken, who broke them, and who will be held accountable.” 

Brnovich told her in a letter, however, that he was already investigating and a 1487 request is an inappropriate vehicle to thoroughly investigate the issues in the report.  

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include Brnovich’s response to Townsend’s request. 

Flagstaff defies Ducey, declares more closures

Coral Evans (Photo by Jenna Miller)
Coral Evans (Photo by Jenna Miller)

In apparent defiance of Gov. Doug Ducey’s recent executive order defining “essential services,” Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans is expanding the types of businesses closed in the city for now.

On Thursday, Evans issued a statement announcing changes to her original business closure proclamation, which extend the original end-date of the proclamation, April 1, to an indefinite one “until further notice to comply with” Ducey’s order.

It also expands existing business closures to hair salons, nails salons and similar businesses, starting Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. It does not apply to grocery stores or similar businesses, pharmacies and drug stores, food banks and food pantries, cafeterias, college or university restaurants or vendors at the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport.

Evans’ amendment proclamation comes three days after Ducey issued an executive order that listed which businesses could remain open in the event of a stay-at-home order delivered by his office. Ducey’s order also gave him the executive authority to deliver the order, forbidding any county, city or town from making “any order, rule or regulation” that prohibits the function of those businesses or services deemed essential.

Ducey’s spokesman, Patrick Ptak, said in a text that “the law is clear” but did not directly say that the order was in defiance with the Ninth Floor’s order. “Under the emergency declaration, the state’s guidance supersedes other directives,” Ptak said.

After Evans announced her proclamation, Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, threatened to file a 1487 complaint if necessary, which if fulfilled could take away Flagstaff’s shared state revenue. Leach criticized Evans’ action in a statement, calling it “not helpful” and “illegal.”

“We plan to take this to the Arizona Attorney General to get it overturned,” Leach said in the statement.

Days before Ducey dropped his order, Flagstaff joined Phoenix and Tucson, all Democratic strongholds led by female mayors, and ordered some bars to close, something they saw as a proactive measure in a time when Ducey and the state as a whole was waiting to make the decision. 

Not only did Evans say she was disappointed that “every freaking service in the world” was deemed essential, the order forbids her and other mayors from doing something they feel they should have the authority to do.

Now Evans said, echoing other Arizona mayors, she feels effectively powerless to keep people in Flagstaff safe and healthy.

“If I wake up tomorrow, and there is an insurmountable surge of COVID-19 in my town … and I decide everybody needs to go home for a week, so we can try to get a handle on this, I can’t do that legally anymore. I would have to call the governor and see,” Evans said. “These things are undermining what we are trying to do with cities and towns to protect our people.” 

Evans said she and other mayors are still waiting for clarification regarding the nuances of the executive order — something they have asked for since it was dropped, and the issue of what is an “essential” business, which Evans and other mayors have asked about since Ducey declared a state of emergency.

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include a statement from Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak.