Arizona will be the epicenter of GOP challenges ahead of the 2022 election

Arizona is now ground zero for GOP efforts to challenge the 2022 interim results as the party seizes disenfranchisement allegations.

On Tuesday, Republican attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh took the final step by filing a lawsuit against the results of his race, in which his Democratic rival leads by 510 votes from more than 2.5 million ballots ahead of an expected recount .

That comes after two GOP-led counties in the state of Grand Canyon voted to delay certification of the election results. Meanwhile, a battle is brewing in Maricopa County’s most populous jurisdiction, where election officials acknowledge printing mishaps but insist affected voters still have multiple options for voting.

The efforts come after former President Trump and his allies attempted to stop the certification of President Biden’s 2020 victory, fueling concerns about election denial within the Republican Party.

“This is really a small group of people acting outside their authority,” said Jenny Gimian, senior policy advisor at election education nonprofit Informing Democracy. “The normal process in Arizona has a lot of checks for accuracy. It is 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 the Arizona gubernatorial race earlier this month, refused to budge and called for a new election. Trump himself took it a step further by claiming without evidence that officials deliberately “took the election away” from Lake.

“Whether they were done accidentally or deliberately, it is clear that this election was a debacle that destroyed any confidence in our election,” Lake said Monday.

But the sentiment is not shared by all Republicans in the state. Gov. Doug Ducey (R), drawing Trump’s ire after refusing to reverse the 2020 election results, broke with Lake on Wednesday and publicly congratulated Hobbs on her win.

Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters conceded to Sen. Mark Kelly (D) last week, but Masters still demanded Maricopa’s board of trustees resign, calling them “gross negligence” at best.

Officials in Maricopa County, including Phoenix, acknowledge that printers in 70 of the county’s 223 polling stations used ink on Election Day that was too light for tabulation machines to read, but they say voters could wait in line until the issue was resolved , cast a vote at another voting center or deposit their ballot in a separate box for later tabulation.

Hamadeh’s lawsuit, which the Republican National Committee joined, makes it clear that there is no “fraud, manipulation or other willful misconduct.”

But among other allegations, the lawsuit alleges that Maricopa officials failed to properly vet more than 400 affected voters who later cast their ballots in another voting center or in a drop box, suggesting the issues will result in their ballots not being counted and the outcome of the Attorney General’s extremely close race.

“The election failures in Maricopa County have disenfranchised Arizona citizens. We’re going to court to get the answers voters deserve,” said Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee wrote on Twitter.

The lawsuit is asking a state judge to order officials to adjust their tables to include affected voters and certify Hamadeh as the winner.

Maricopa County communications manager Jason Berry declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said, “Everyone has had the opportunity to vote and all legal votes are being counted.”

“This race is slated to move into a recount where they will review and review some of those processes to make sure again that in a close race they haven’t missed mistakes that have been happening all along,” said Gimian of 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 answer questions about the accidents, and the county has promised to respond ahead of a Monday meeting to certify its election investigation.

Meanwhile, protesters have sometimes appeared near the county’s central election facility. On Friday, a vehicle convoy circled the area in a strategy borrowed from the “Freedom Convoy” earlier this year, protesting Canada’s pandemic restrictions.

“Threats have become an unfortunately common occurrence for our election officials and election workers since the November 2020 election,” said Berry, adding that he did not yet know how many threats have been 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 encompasses the southeastern corner of Arizona, three conspiracy theorists claimed without evidence that the voting machines there were not properly certified, leading the two Republicans on the county’s three-member board to support a delay.

That included Supervisor Peggy Judd (R), who attended Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, 2021, and promoted unfounded claims of massive 2020 election fraud, even though she told the Tucson Sentinel she never entered the Capitol.

After the vote, both the Arizona state election 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 did not certify by Monday’s legal deadline.

“The administration is sort of turning this ministerial act into an act of political theater,” said Jared Davidson, an attorney with Protect Democracy. “They must follow the will of Cochise County voters and certify the results, that is their duty. Refusing to certify the results will nullify or effectively disenfranchise those voters, the majority of whom are Republicans.”

In the opposite corner of Arizona, the Mohave County GOP-controlled board praised election officials there for delaying the certification of its investigation on Monday, describing it as a political statement in the wake of the Maricopa issues.

“Mohave County has become, their votes are worth less than they were prior to this vote because of the mismanagement and dysfunction of the Maricopa County Election Department,” GOP Chairman Jeanne Kentch of Mohave County said at the meeting.

Supervisor Hildy Angius (R) said in an email Wednesday that “many groups and individuals” had approached the county to delay certification, and she promised to certify next Monday.

“I will not place Mohave County in any legal or financial jeopardy because of Maricopa’s misconduct,” Angius wrote. “This vote was only intended to delay certification so that those investigating and possibly litigating have more time to do what they need to do.”

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