Chairwoman Dr. Kelli Ward of the Arizona Republican Party (AZGOP) and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced a lawsuit against Maricopa County Tuesday for failing to comply with public records requests relating to poll worker staffing.
“After several weeks of negotiations, Maricopa County left us no choice but to sue because Arizonans who want to be poll workers shouldn’t be shut out of the process. With midterms just 35 days away, Arizonans deserve basic transparency about how their elections will be conducted,” said McDaniel and Ward. “This legal offensive is the latest step in Republicans’ ongoing efforts to promote free, fair, and transparent elections in Arizona.”
— Republican Party of Arizona (@AZGOP) October 5, 2022
On September 9, attorney Eric Spencer, representing the RNC, sent a letter to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. In this letter, Spencer outlined concerns regarding the number of Republican poll workers hired for the August 2022 primary election. According to Spencer, public records revealed that the county hired 857 Democrats and 712 Republicans.
Under ARS § 16-531(A), the inspector, marshal, and judges at all voting locations must be divided evenly between “the two largest political parties.” Spencer alleged that this law should have “virtually guaranteed” equal distribution of party affiliation among poll workers.
Moreover, Spencer stated that 11 voting centers during the primary did not have any Republican workers, while only two centers had no Democrat workers. Maricopa County Republican Committee Chairwoman Mickie Niland provided the county with a list in May containing hundreds of Republican poll worker names and information. Niland was allegedly never contacted by the county about any “last-minute shortfall in Republican poll workers in the primary.”
Furthermore, Spencer also pointed out a disparity in those working in the central processing board at the county’s tabulation center, as 88 Republicans served, compared to 148 Democrats. He requested the county disclose the reason for the disparity and why Niland’s list was not fully utilized to fill more Republican positions by September 16.
However, this letter did not receive a satisfactory response. On September 29, attorney Kory Langhofer sent the county another public records request (PRR). In this letter, Langhofer stated that the RNC’s initial request received a copy of an email that County Director of Elections for Election Day and Emergency Voting Scott Jarrett had sent to a third party for a separate request. Langhofer said Jarrett’s comments do not substitute for the actual production of documents required under Arizona law. On top of requesting answers to the initial PRR, Langhofer made more requests regarding qualifications for election boards in the November general election. He requested the county answer new and old PRRs by October 3.
In response, Langhofer received a letter stating that staff could not produce the requested information within the time limit, and no records have been released.
Therefore, Ward and McDaniel sued the county for not producing the proper documents requested by both PRRs. Under ARS § 39-121.01(B), the defendants must maintain all records relating to their official activities. The organizations claim that all documents sought in both PRRs count as public records because they pertain to the official duties and activities in administrating the Maricopa County election, meaning the county is required to share them under Arizona law. Ultimately, the RNC and AZGOP requested that the court order the county to produce all requested documents and ensure similar documents are created for future elections.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ronna McDaniel” and Kelli Ward” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.