Arizona is now ground zero for the GOP’s effort to challenge 2022 interim results as the party addresses allegations of voter disenfranchisement.
On Tuesday, Republican attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh took the latest step by filing a lawsuit challenging the results of his race, which sees his Democratic rival lead by 510 votes from more than 2.5 million ballots ahead of an expected recount.
This comes after two GOP-run counties in Grand Canyon state voted to delay confirmation of election results. Meanwhile, a fight is growing in Maricopa County’s most populous jurisdiction, with polling officials acknowledging printer glitches but insisting affected voters still had multiple avenues to cast a ballot.
The effort comes after former President Trump and his allies tried to halt confirmation of President Biden’s victory in 2020, stoking concerns about voter denial within the Republican Party.
“This is really a small group of people acting outside of their authority,” said Jenny Gimian, senior policy counsel at the electoral education nonprofit Informing Democracy. “The normal process in Arizona really has a lot of checks for accuracy. It is very thorough, very systemic and involves the participation and involvement of both main parties at every step along the way.”
Kari Lake, a Trump ally who lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs in the Arizona gubernatorial race earlier this month, refused to back down and called for a rerun of the election. Trump himself went a step further by claiming without evidence that officials intentionally “took the election away” from Lake.
“Whether accidental or intentional, it is clear that this election was a debacle that shattered all confidence in our elections,” Lake said Monday.
But the sentiment isn’t shared by all Republicans in the state. Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who drew Trump’s ire after refusing to overturn the 2020 election results, broke with Lake And on Wednesday publicly congratulated Hobbs on her victory.
Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters conceded to Sen. Mark Kelly (D) last week, but Masters still called for the resignation of Maricopa’s board of directors, calling it “gross negligence” at best.
Officials in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, admit that on Election Day, printers at 70 of the county’s 223 polling centers used ink that was too light for tab machines to read, but they said voters could wait in line wait for the issue to be resolved and cast a ballot at another polling center or put their ballot in a separate box for later tabulation.
Hamadeh’s lawsuit, joined by the Republican National Committee, makes it clear that it alleges “no fraud, manipulation or other intentional misconduct.”
But among other things, the lawsuit alleges that Maricopa officials failed to properly screen more than 400 affected voters who later cast ballots at another polling center or drop box, suggesting the troubles are causing it that their ballots will not be counted and the result will be postponed by the Attorney General’s extremely close race.
“The failure of the Maricopa County election disenfranchised Arizonans. We go to court to get the answers voters deserve,” said Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel wrote on Twitter.
The lawsuit asks a state judge to order officials to amend their charts to include affected voters and confirm Hamadeh as the winner.
Maricopa County Communications Manager Jason Berry declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said, “Everyone had an opportunity to cast a vote and all legal ballots will be counted.”
“This race is designed to result in a recount where they look back and review some of these processes to again ensure in a close race that they haven’t missed any errors that occurred throughout the race,” said Gimian of Informing Democracy . “So it’s really unlikely that this is substantial enough to change the outcome.”
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) separately asked Maricopa officials to answer questions about the mishaps, and the county has promised to respond before a meeting Monday to confirm its campaigning.
Meanwhile, demonstrators have appeared at times near the county’s central voting facility. On Friday, a convoy of vehicles circled the area in a strategy derived from the “Freedom Convoy” earlier this year protesting Canada’s pandemic restrictions.
“Since the November 2020 election, unfortunately, threats to our election officials and poll workers have become a normal occurrence,” Berry said, adding that he did not yet know how many threats were received after the mid-term elections.
Outside of Maricopa, citizens in rural parts of the state have persuaded GOP officials in two counties to postpone certification.
In Cochise County, which includes the southeast corner of Arizona, three conspiracy theorists claimed without evidence that the voting machines there were improperly certified, and persuaded the two Republicans on the county’s three-member board to support a delay.
They included Supervisor Peggy Judd (R), who attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021 rally and promoted unsubstantiated claims of mass voting fraud in 2020, though she told the Tucson Sentinel she never set foot on the Capitol.
After the vote, both the Arizona State Elections Director and Elias Law Group, which represents clients in a number of high-profile election cases, sent separate letters to the district threatening legal action if they didn’t confirm by Monday’s legal deadline .
“The board is turning this ministerial act into a kind of political theater,” said Jared Davidson, an attorney for Protect Democracy. “They should follow the will of the Cochise County voters and validate the results, that is their duty. Refusing to confirm the results will nullify or effectively disenfranchise these voters, the majority of whom are Republicans.”
In the opposite corner of Arizona, the GOP-controlled Mohave County board of directors praised local election officials for delaying certification of its campaign advertising Monday, describing it as a political statement in the wake of the Maricopa troubles.
“Mohave County has become, their votes were worth less than they were prior to this vote due to the mismanagement and dysfunction of the Maricopa County Elections Department,” Mohave County GOP Chairwoman Jeanne Kentch said at the meeting.
Supervisor Hildy Angius (R) said in an email on Wednesday that “many groups and individuals” had reached out to the county to postpone certification and she promised to certify this coming Monday.
“I will not legally or financially jeopardize Mohave County because of Maricopa’s mistreatment,” Angius wrote. “This vote was only to delay certification so those investigating and possibly litigating would have more time to do what they need to do.”