Audit-USA v. Maricopa Cnty. – 2/14/2023

February 27, 2023

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that counties are not authorized to disclose digital images of ballots in response to public records requests.

An advocacy group twice submitted records requests for copies of ballot images and other electronic ballot data from the November 2020 general election. After Maricopa County did not respond, the group filed a special action in the superior court to compel access to public records. In response, the County provided some electronic ballot data, but refused to provide electronic copies of the ballot images.

The dispute concerned whether a statute governing electronic ballot data security prevents disclosure through a public records request. The superior court dismissed the claim, finding the statute expressly prohibits the transfer of digital images of ballots. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Analyzing the plain text of the statutory provision, it found that the statute requires equally protective security measures for ballot images as the paper ballots. A.R.S. § 16-625. And since the paper ballots must remain unopened boxes and unaltered while stored in a secure facility, the group could not access the paper ballots. A.R.S. § 16-624(A). Accordingly, the statute prohibited access to the electronic ballot images.

Judge Morse authored the opinion, in which Judges Perkins and Brown joined.

Posted by: Sarah Lawson