Arizona is now ground zero for the GOP’s efforts to challenge the 2022 midterm results as the party seizes on 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, in which his Democratic rival leads by 510 votes out of more than 2.5 million ballots, ahead of an expected recount.
It comes after two GOP-led counties in the Grand Canyon State voted to delay certifying the election results. Meanwhile, a battle is growing in the most populous jurisdiction of Maricopa County, where election officials acknowledge printer mishaps but insist affected voters still had multiple opportunities to cast a ballot.
The effort comes after former President Trump and his allies tried to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory in 2020, fueling concerns about electoral denial in the Republican Party.
“This is really a small group of people acting outside their authority,” said Jenny Gimian, senior policy adviser at the voter education nonprofit Informing Democracy. “The normal process in Arizona really has a lot of checks on accuracy. It’s very thorough, very systemic and includes the participation and involvement of both major parties at every step of 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 runoff election. Trump himself took things further by claiming without evidence that officials deliberately “took the election away” 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 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, broke Wednesday with Lake and publicly congratulated Hobbs on her victory.
Republican Senate nominee 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, acknowledge that printers at 70 of the county’s 223 voting centers on Election Day used ink too light for tabulators to read, but they say voters could wait in line until the problem was resolved and cast a voice. at another polling center or deposit their ballot in a separate box for tabulation later.
Hamadeh’s lawsuit, which the Republican National Committee joined, makes clear that it does not allege “fraud, manipulation or other willful misconduct.”
But among other allegations, the suit alleges that Maricopa officials failed to properly check more than 400 affected voters who later cast ballots at another vote center or in a drop box, suggesting the problems will result in their ballots will not be counted and change the result of the extremely close race for Minister of Justice.
“Maricopa County’s election failure disenfranchised Arizonans. We’re going to court to get the answers voters deserve, says Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote on Twitter.
The suit asks a state judge to order officials to change their tabulations to include the affected voters and certify Hamadeh as the winner.
Maricopa County Communications Director Jason Berry declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said, “Everyone had the opportunity to cast a vote, and all legal votes are counted.”
“This race is scheduled to go to a recount where they will look at some of those processes again and review to again make sure in a close race that they didn’t miss any mistakes that happened throughout,” said Gimian, of Informing Democracy. “So it feels really unlikely that this is significant enough to change the outcome.”
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) separately demanded Maricopa officials answer questions about the crashes, and the county has promised to respond ahead of a Monday meeting to certify its election action.
Meanwhile, protesters have appeared at times near the county’s central election facility. On Friday, a convoy of vehicles circled the area in a strategy taken from the “Freedom Convoy” earlier this year, which protested Canada’s 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 have convinced GOP officials in two counties to delay certification.
In Cochise County, which includes Arizona’s southeast corner, three conspiracy theorists argued without evidence that the 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 baseless claims of mass election fraud in 2020, even though she told the Tucson Sentinel she never entered the Capitol.
After the vote, both Arizona’s state elections director and the 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 statutory deadline.
“The board is kind of turning this ministerial action into an act of political theater,” said Jared Davidson, an attorney with Protect Democracy. “They should follow the will of the voters in Cochise County and certify the results, that’s their duty. Refusal to certify the results will nullify or effectively disenfranchise those voters, the majority of whom are Republicans.”
In the opposite corner of Arizona, Mohave County’s GOP-controlled board praised election officials there for delaying the certification of its canvass on Monday, describing it as a political statement in the wake of the Maricopa issues.
“Mohave County has become, their votes have been worth less than they were before this vote because of mismanagement and dysfunction in the Maricopa County Elections Department,” Mohave County GOP Chairwoman Jeanne Kentch said at the meeting.
Supervisor Hildy Angius (R) said in an email Wednesday that “many groups and individuals” had approached the county about delaying the certification, and she promised to certify this coming Monday.
“I will not put Mohave County in any legal or financial jeopardy because of Maricopa’s malpractice,” Angius wrote. “This vote was simply to delay certification so that those investigating and possibly prosecuting cases have more time to do what they need to do.”