By Zachary Stieber
A Republican candidate for Arizona’s attorney general position on Nov. 22 sued his opponent and a slew of election officials, including officials in Maricopa County, alleging that widespread “errors and inaccuracies” caused voter disenfranchisement.
Officials in at least 15 counties have “caused the unlawful denial of the franchise to certain qualified electors, erroneously tallied certain ballots, and included for tabulation in the canvass certain illegal votes in connection with the election for the office of Arizona Attorney General,” Abe Hamadeh, the candidate, said in the complaint.
That includes Maricopa County officials improperly disqualifying ballots cast by people who, as a direct result of poll worker errors, were incorrectly listed as voting previously in the midterm election, Hamadeh added.
“Immediate judicial intervention is necessary to secure the accuracy of the results of the November 8, 2022 general election, and to ensure that candidate who received the highest number of lawful votes is declared the next Arizona Attorney General,” the complaint states.
The filing was lodged in Maricopa County court.
The Arizona attorney general race is headed to a recount, according to Katie Hobbs, the state’s secretary of state, due to the slim margin separating Hamadeh from Democrat candidate Kris Mayes.
Mayes is leading by just 510 votes out of more than 2.5 million cast, according to an unofficial tally from Hobbs’s office.
Mayes and Hobbs, who were named as defendants in the new suit, did not respond to requests for comment. A Maricopa County spokesperson did not immediately return an inquiry.
Maricopa County officials have acknowledged problems with tabulation equipment, saying the problem affected 30 percent of all voting centers in the county and an estimated 17,000 ballots.
On election day the officials said that voters could place their ballots in a secure box to be counted later. Other options included “checking out” of the poll site and casting a ballot at another location, or utilizing an early ballot if one was possessed.
Both of the latter options required poll workers to properly list the voter as checking out, or leaving the site without casting a ballot, but some workers “were unaware of the process,” the new complaint alleges.
“This pervasive and systematic error directly and proximately resulted in three recurring scenarios in which qualified electors were unlawfully and unconstitutionally disenfranchised,” it added.
Hamadeh and the Republican National Committee, which joined in the legal action, say that at least 146 voters who should have been checked out and who later went to another location were required to vote using provisional ballots, which they say will not be counted because the voter was erroneously listed as having already voted.
At least 273 other voters who should have been checked out utilized early ballots but those ballots will not count because of the same issue, the Republicans said.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, a Republican, failed to outline the steps voters had to take if they left the sites at which there were problems in a widely-viewed Election Day video that featured officials acknowledging for the first time the issues with tabulators, the complaint noted. He did not mention checking out but merely said people could “go to a nearby voting center.”
“Chairman Gates’s instructions foreseeably resulted in the disenfranchisement of a significant number of qualified electors who followed his instructions,” it says. “By inducing voters to leave polling locations and then denying-through a consistent and erroneous practice of failing to properly implement ‘check-out’ procedures-these qualified electors their right to duly cast a ballot for tabulation, the Maricopa County Defendants engaged (through their election boards) in cognizable ‘misconduct,’ and wrongfully excluded valid and legally sufficient votes from the canvass line the race for Arizona Attorney General.”
Other issues include officials allegedly violating the law when they sought to verify early ballot signatures.
Officials must, when receiving a mail-in ballot, compare the signature on the envelope containing the ballot with the signature of the voter on record. If the signatures don’t match, the ballot is invalid unless the voter “cures” the problem within three to five days, depending on the type of election.
A number of the ballot envelopes had mismatched signatures but were still counted because county officials determined the signature matched the signature on a different document other than the registration record, which violates state law, the complaint alleges.
The issue happened across multiple counties, the Republicans say.
They also alleged that in the duplication process—triggered when a ballot is too defective to be read by a tabulator—officials incorrectly transcribed some of the selections in the attorney general race, which led to an inaccurate vote count.
“Arizonans demand answers and deserve transparency about the gross incompetence and mismanagement of the General Election by certain election officials. I will not stop fighting until ALL voters receive justice. See you in court,” Hamadeh said in a statement.
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said that the committee was “proud to join in this legal action.”
“Maricopa County’s election failures disenfranchised Arizonans,” she said. “We’re going to court to get the answers voters deserve.”