The Democrats’ attempt to stop a Republican state Senate in Arizona from recounting Maricopa County’s 2020 presidential election ballots hit turbulence over the weekend as the judge hearing the case took himself out of it.
KTAR reported Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury recused himself Sunday, and a hearing that was scheduled for Monday was being rescheduled.
The audit is continuing during the court battle, launched by Democrats who don’t want the official results that favored Joe Biden to be reviewed.
The Gateway Pundit reported that the judge’s order, issued late Sunday, explained a lawyer, Chris Viskovic, who appeared in the case for the first time on Sunday, previously “worked … as an extern” in the judge’s own office.
“In accordance with Rule 2.11, Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 81, Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court, and good cause appearing, it is ordered recusing this judicial officer from any further involvement in this matter,” the judge wrote.
He said the case would be referred “to a new judicial officer for all further proceedings.”
BREAKING Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury recuses himself from legal challenge to Senate Republicans’ election audit, less than 24 hours before scheduled 11 a.m. hearing Monday. More TK. pic.twitter.com/K2RHzD8X9E
— Brahm Resnik (@brahmresnik) April 26, 2021
The audit actually got under way on Friday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where Senate Republicans assigned an outside firm they hired, Cyber Ninjas, to manually recount some 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 election day.
Democrats had sued to stop the verification process, but it was allowed to continue when they refused to post a $1 million bond for additional costs of their delay.
The state Senate used its subpoena power to take possession of the ballots, as well as the machines that counted them.
Arizona was one of a six states that Joe Biden won by a slim margin where lawmakers raised objections to the results, presenting evidence of vote fraud. The Senate Republicans recount was launched last week when county officials began delivering equipment that was used in the November election to the state fairgrounds, where the recount is to include all 2.1 million ballots.
The work by contractors hired by the state Senate is expected to take weeks.
The Washington Examiner reported the Arizona Democratic Party sued to stop the work.
Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, one of the plaintiffs, claimed that the lawsuit is “to protect the sanctity of the ballots.” Before recusing, Coury had ordered that all security precautions needed to protect the integrity of the ballots be taken.
A Fox broadcaster in Arizona reported previous recounts of the ballots found no widespread issues.
The Gateway Pundit said the recusal happened because “the auditors hired an attorney who interned with Judge Coury previously. When the new attorney was introduced today for the first time the Judge was forced to resign from the case.”
The report continued, “This isn’t the first suit Maricopa County Board of Supervisors raised in an attempt to stop the audit.”
And, it explained, after the Democrats tried to halt the work, but before Coury’s ruling, the Arizona Senate took its case to the state Supreme Court, where, “Judge Bolick took the Republicans’ grievance and agreed with Judge Coury’s actions and set up Tuesday for the deadline for the Republicans to lay out their grievances about the Democrats’ last-minute effort to stop the audit and Judge Coury’s actions. He ordered the Democrats to respond by Wednesday to the document the Republicans file on Tuesday, and then he offered the Republicans Thursday to respond to the Democrats’ response.”
Kory Langhofer, an attorney for the state Senate, also argued the Senate enjoys legislative immunity and cannot be sued over the recount now. And he argued that the separation of powers prevents the courts from stopping the audit.
A court previously upheld the right of Senate Republicans to conduct the review.
Shortly after the election, judges dismissed several lawsuits challenging the results in Arizona, as happened in five other states. But nearly every case was dismissed on technical issues of standing and timing, not on the merits.
One issue that is not in doubt – and remains of concern – is that state officials, without constitutional authority, changed election laws to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic
The changes mostly were related to mail-in ballots, which are more susceptible to fraud. Democrats pushed for the expansion of mail-in balloting, arguing it was needed to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opposition to the audit was maintained in legacy media reports on the dispute. The AP charged in a headline that, “Election conspiracies live on with audit by Arizona GOP.”
The wire service explained, “The process is alarming election professionals who fear the auditors are not up to the complex task and will severely undermine faith in democracy.”
The report alleged, “Conspiracy theories about the election have proliferated across the country even before President Joe Biden’s victory but have had particular staying power in Arizona, which flipped to the Democratic column for just the second time in 72 years.”
The report then criticized the auditing company for not disclosing “who’s paying him or who’s counting the ballots” and declining to “provide an estimate for the total cost of [its] audit.”
The report also charged, “The audit has been beset by amateur mistakes that critics view as evidence the auditors are not up to the task.”
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