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A request to keep secret the policies used for the recount of Maricopa County’s ballots has prompted pushback from news organizations ahead of a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered Friday that Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm hired by the Arizona Senate to conduct the recount, turn over more information about its work this week as part of a lawsuit filed by the state Democratic Party and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo. The lawsuit said the recount violates various state election laws and does not include adequate procedures to ensure the safety of ballots or voter privacy.

The Arizona First Amendment Coalition argued in a court filing Monday that the public — and particularly the 2.1 million people who cast the ballots now in the Senate’s custody — deserves to know how their ballots are handled and whether their privacy is protected.

The legal fight comes amid mounting questions about the transparency of the Senate’s recount. The effort’s funders remain a mystery, for example, and reporters have not been allowed inside, except as observers working six-hour shifts, during which time they are not allowed cameras.

“It is difficult to conceive of a case that warrants transparency more than this one,” attorney Dan Barr wrote on behalf of the group.

“Cyber Ninjas, a private entity otherwise unaffiliated with the Arizona government, currently has unfettered access (with apparently little to no oversight from [Senate President Karen] Fann and the Arizona Senate) to the ballots and voter information of every single voter who cast a ballot in Maricopa County in November 2020.”

Lawyers for Cyber Ninjas argued that releasing details about its work would compromise the safety of the audit and also reveal trade secrets.

What to know: Answers to your questions about the Arizona Senate’s audit of 2020 election results in Maricopa County

“Clearly the documents Cyber Ninjas has been ordered to file are Confidential Information for various reasons including that they constitute business information and concepts as well as operational information and records and reflect the know-how of Cyber Ninjas,” lawyer Alexander Kolodin wrote on behalf of the company in a filing on Sunday.

But Barr pointed to the rules for filing documents under seal in court, contending that the company had not shown such restrictions would be “no greater than necessary to preserve confidentiality of the information,” for example. The company could still file documents publicly but just redact what it claims are trade secrets and providing an unredacted copy to the court, he argued.

“The fact that something may contain trade secrets does not provide Cyber Ninjas an unqualified right to have it filed under seal,” Barr wrote.

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And while Cyber Ninjas argued the court should be closed to avoid “unscrupulous actors” tampering with election integrity, he countered that is exactly what the lawsuit is trying to prevent.

The First Amendment Coalition includes the Arizona Broadcasters Association, the Arizona Cable Television Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Arizona Press Club, and the Arizona Newspapers Association, of which The Arizona Republic is a member.

The judge overseeing the case, Christopher Coury, recused himself on Sunday. He cited the fact that a lawyer who recently signed on to represent Cyber Ninjas worked as an extern in his office within the past few years.

That move canceled a hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. on Monday.

The case was reassigned Monday to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin, who scheduled a hearing for 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Contact Andrew Oxford at andrew.oxford@arizonarepublic.com or on Twitter at @andrewboxford.

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