A judge in Arizona on Friday ordered a halt to the audit of votes in the 2020 election.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Chris Coury said the pause is meant to be temporary. It starts at 5 p.m. on Friday and runs through noon on Monday.
Coury held open the possibility of extending the pause during a hearing on April 26.
The audit will only stop if the Arizona Democratic Party posts a $1 million bond meant to compensate the Arizona Senate for any expenses they get if they were wrongly enjoined.
The party on Thursday filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the audit, arguing the audit violated state law by lacking proper safeguards.
“The question here we are raising is the audit that the Senate and its agents are conducting violate many provisions of state law,” Roopali Desai, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the judge. “And it is those specific violations of the law that brings us here to your courtroom today.”
A judge in an earlier case ruled that the county must comply with subpoenas from the Senate.
Voter information could be made public because of lax security, Desai alleged.
The Arizona Democratic Party’s phone line was not accepting phone calls and its website did not list an email address. Desai’s law office did not return requests for comment.
A lawyer for the Senate, which subpoenaed the equipment and ballots for an audit and hired four firms to conduct it, argued that the plaintiffs did not provide evidence for their claims.
Merits aside, “we’ve not heard a word from the plaintiffs about how the constitutional clause saying that members of the legislature are immune from civil process while the legislature is in process doesn’t apply,” said Kory Langhofer, the attorney.
The audit of 2.1 million ballots and equipment used in the presidential election, including 385 tabulators, was scheduled to start on Friday after delivery to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.
A legal battle over the planned audit has unfolded over months, with Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors resisting efforts to audit the county’s votes. The county has said it did several recounts and found no major issues.
Steve Gallardo, the sole Democrat on the five-member board, joined the lawsuit.
Coury said he was concerned about confidentiality issues because of the sensitive information, such as names and addresses, that are being viewed by auditors.
But he emphasized that the audit will ultimately continue.
“This is a very brief pause to ensure that the confidentiality and the protections required by the Constitution and the laws are in place, that’s all it really is,” he said, adding later, “Let me be clear: the audit will proceed.”
Coury wants briefed on the legislative immunity issue, the separation of powers, and whether plaintiffs have adequate standing.
Earlier Friday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, urged Arizona’s attorney general to investigate potential violations of the state’s election laws in connection with the election audit.
Hobbs told Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, that there have been reports indicating the Senate failed to secure the equipment and ballots its contractors are auditing, resulting in “unauthorized and unmonitored access to both.”
Brnovich’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.