Arizona is now ground zero for GOP efforts to challenge the 2022 midterm results as the party tackles allegations of voter fraud.
On Tuesday, Republican candidate for attorney general Abe Hamadeh took the final step by filing a lawsuit challenging the results of his race, in which his Democratic rival leads by 510 votes out of more than 2.5 million ballots cast ahead of an expected recount .
That comes after two GOP-led counties in the Grand Canyon State voted to delay certifying the election results. Meanwhile, a battle is growing in Maricopa County’s most populous jurisdiction, where election officials acknowledge printer failures but insist affected voters still have multiple options to cast a ballot.
The efforts come after former President Trump and his allies tried to block the certification of President Biden’s 2020 victory, fueling concerns about electoral denial within the Republican Party.
“This is really a small group of people acting outside of their authority,” said Jenny Gimian, senior policy adviser at election education nonprofit Informing Democracy. “The normal process in Arizona really has a lot of checks on accuracy. It’s very thorough, very systemic and involves the participation and involvement of both major parties at every step along the way.
Kari Lake, a Trump ally who lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs in Arizona’s gubernatorial race earlier this month, refused to concede and called for a re-election. Trump himself took things further by claiming without evidence that officials deliberately “took the election” from Lake.
“Whether it was done by accident or on purpose, it is clear that this election was a debacle that destroyed any confidence in our elections,” Lake said on Monday.
But the sentiment is not shared by all Republicans in the state. Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who drew Trump’s ire after refusing to overturn the 2020 election results, on Wednesday broke with Lake and publicly congratulated Hobbs on her victory.
Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters conceded last week to Sen. Mark Kelly (D), but Masters still demanded Maricopa’s board of supervisors resign, calling them “grossly negligent” at best.
Officials in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, acknowledged that printers at 70 of the county’s 223 voting centers on Election Day used ink too light for tabulation machines to read, but they said voters could wait in line until the problem was resolved , cast a ballot. at another voting center or deposit their ballot in a separate box for tabulation later.
Hamadeh’s lawsuit, of which the Republican National Committee is a member, clarifies that it does not allege “fraud, manipulation or other intentional wrongdoing.”
But among other allegations, the suit alleges that Maricopa officials failed to properly monitor more than 400 affected voters who later voted at another vote center or in a drop box, suggesting the problems will result in their ballots not being counted and the outcome of the extremely close attorney general race.
“The Maricopa County election failures set Arizonans free. We’re going to court to get the answers voters deserve,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote on Twitter.
The suit is asking a state judge to order officials to amend their tabulations to include the affected voters and certify Hamadeh as the winner.
Maricopa County Communications Manager Jason Berry declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said, “Everyone had the opportunity to cast a ballot and all legal ballots will be counted.”
“This race is scheduled to go to a recount, where they’re going to revisit and review some of those processes to make sure in a close race again that they didn’t miss any mistakes that happened throughout,” Gimian said , from Informing Democracy. “So it feels really unlikely that this is substantive enough to change the outcome.”
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) separately demanded Maricopa officials respond to questions about the accidents, and the county promised to respond ahead of a Monday meeting to certify its election canvass.
Meanwhile, protesters have sometimes appeared near the central election facility of the province. On Friday, a convoy of vehicles circled the area in a strategy drawn from the “Freedom Convoy” earlier this year, which protested against Canadian pandemic restrictions.
“Threats have become an unfortunately normal occurrence for our election officials and election workers since the November 2020 election,” Berry said, adding that he did not yet know how many threats were received after the midterms.
Outside of Maricopa, citizens in rural parts of the state persuaded GOP officials in two counties to delay certification.
In Cochise County, which covers the southeastern corner of Arizona, three conspiracy theorists claimed without evidence that voting machines there were not properly certified, convincing the two Republicans on the county’s three-person board to support a delay.
That included Supervisor Peggy Judd (R), who attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally and promoted unsubstantiated claims of massive election fraud in 2020, though she told the Tucson Sentinel she never entered the Capitol.
After the vote, both Arizona’s state elections director and Elias Law Group, which represents clients in a number of high-profile election cases, sent separate letters to the county threatening legal action if it doesn’t certify by Monday’s legal deadline.
“The administration is making this ministerial act a kind of political theater,” said Jared Davidson, a lawyer at Protect Democracy. “They must follow the will of the voters of Cochise County and certify the results, that is their duty. Refusal to certify the results will invalidate or effectively disenfranchise these voters, the majority of whom are Republican.”
In the opposite corner of Arizona, the GOP-controlled Mohave County board praised election officials there for delaying their certification on Monday, describing it as a political statement in the wake of the Maricopa issues.
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“Mohave County has become, its votes have been worth less than they were before this vote because of the mismanagement and the 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 approached the province to delay certification, and she promised to certify this coming Monday.
“I will not put Mohave County in legal or financial jeopardy over Maricopa’s misconduct,” Angius wrote. “This vote was simply to delay the certification so that those investigating and possibly litigating will have more time to do what they need to do.”