Maricopa County rejects Arizona lawmaker's subpoena but says it will answer election questions
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has rejected a legislative subpoena seeking information about the Nov. 8 election, saying it was flawed and not “properly issued.”
The county, however, said it "appreciates the interest of the Arizona Legislature" in election matters and would provide answers and information to the extent it was legally able to do so.
Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction, issued the subpoena that was served to the county Wednesday, adding another layer of official action to concerns by some Republicans over Election Day problems with ballot readers at the polls. The lengthy list of questions sought a range of information about why tabulating machines could not process some ballots and demanded that the county answer by 9:30 a.m. Monday.
Bill Gates, the board’s chairman, told Townsend in a Nov. 27 letter that while the county would provide some of her requested information about the election, the subpoena didn’t provide a “reasonable” time for a response, giving the county less than one full business day to respond to her "massive" amount of requests.
State law further requires a legislative subpoena to be "tethered" to a hearing to ensure the probe "is performed in public by the authorized committee or legislative body," Gates said.
The subpoena's deficiencies meant it did not “meet the legal requirements of an enforceable legislative subpoena,” he said.
The county would compile some of the answers to her questions, he added, but “more than” 10 of her 31 numbered requests in the document asked for items outside the scope of a lawful legislative subpoena. Those requests don't ask for witness testimony or material like "relevant books, papers or documents" and therefore "are improper for inclusion" in the subpoena, he said.
Gates referred Townsend to the county’s weekend response to demands for information from the state Attorney General’s Election Integrity Unit. In that document, the county said it would release more information in the next few weeks and rebutted allegations of wrongdoing by the unit’s leader, Jennifer Wright, a former conservative activist who criticized the county’s election procedures on her Twitter account before announcing her investigation of those procedures.
"Many of your questions appear to be based on an erroneous assumption that County voters weredisenfranchised," Gates' letter to Townsend stated. "That is not the case: all registered voters in the County were provided the opportunity to vote."
County officials "will attempt to answer all the senator’s questions" regardless of the subpoena's validity, county spokesman Fields Moseley said Monday.
Townsend questioned the county’s response on Monday, noting that she previously had been told to file a public records request for the information by the county. She said she disagrees, and said lawyers she spoke with disagree, that the subpoena wasn’t lawfully issued. She would be “more than happy” to hold a Senate hearing if that’s what the county wants, she said.
Even if the county were compelled to accept the subpoena as a legally issued document, a majority vote of the Senate still would be required to actually enforce it.
That’s unlikely because Republicans only have a one-vote majority in the Senate. Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, told The Arizona Republic last week he would not vote to hold the county board in contempt for failing to comply with Townsend’s subpoena.
Townsend, the current chair of the powerful Senate Government Committee, which heard dozens of election-related bills this year, has been a leader in questioning the results of the 2020 election. In December 2020, she organized 29 other Republican lawmakers to send a letter to then-Vice President Mike Pence asking him to accept 11 "alternate" electoral votes for Trump or have all electoral votes nullified "until a full forensic audit can be conducted."
In June, the FBI subpoenaed Townsend and Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, apparently seeking information related to efforts by Trump and his allies to cast doubt on Biden's 2020 win. Townsend told 12 News (KPNX-TV) that the FBI sought her communications records with Trump's lawyers and that she and her staff were complying.
The polling-site problems in Maricopa County outraged Trump-supporting Republicans and losing candidates, including former TV news anchor Kari Lake, who before the election had refused to say if she'd accept the election results unless they showed she won.
Besides the requests for information by the Attorney General's Office and Townsend, Lake and unsuccessful attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh, joined by the state GOP, filed lawsuits last week over the election.
Cochise County Board of Supervisors on Monday voted to delay certification of the Nov. 8 election results. Supervisors in Mohave County considered the same step before voting Monday afternoon to certify the county's results.
State officials said they would certify the state election on Dec. 5 as planned, regardless of whether counties met their Nov. 28 certification deadlines.
Right-wing demands for a new election continued Monday at the certification meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, where some speakers called county leaders “traitors,” or "evil." The supervisors acknowledged issues but voted 5-0 to certify the election.