By Jack Phillips
Arizona secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem filed a notice of appeal after a judge rejected his election-related lawsuit challenging the results of the midterm elections.
Finchem, a Republican, trails Democrat Adrian Fontes in the Nov. 8 general election by about 120,000 votes, or around 5 percentage points. Earlier this month, he filed a lawsuit alleging misconduct by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, asking a Maricopa County judge to carry out a do-over of the election.
Filed on Wednesday (pdf), lawyers for Finchem appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court to take of his challenge. The notice listed Hobbs as well as Fontes, who was listed as the “officeholder-elect,” as defendants. “The appeal is against each and all Contestee/Defendant Fontes and Defendant Hobbs,” it said.
His lawsuit (pdf) alleged that Hobbs, in her capacity as secretary of state, did not recuse herself despite that she was running for governor and that she allegedly abused her authority by not having certain election machines properly certified. Hobbs, the lawsuit further alleged, also threatened the boards of supervisors in Cochise and Mojave counties with criminal charges they did not certify the Nov. 8 contest.
Another claim in Finchem’s suit asserts that Hobbs abused her power when she flagged alleged misinformation that was posted on Finchem’s Twitter page. Finchem’s Twitter account was suspended just days before the midterm elections, although it was reinstated in early November—as new owner Elon Musk took over the company.
“The evidence, for want of a better term that’s out there, shows clearly that, as the secretary of state … (Hobbs) cajoled the Twitter people into censoring possibly as much as 50 percent of her constituency,’’ Finchem attorney Daniel McCauley said. “This was a political issue.’’
The suit also made reference to technical problems that occurred in Maricopa County voting centers on Election Day. Officials on Nov. 8, in a news conference, confirmed that dozens of polling locations were impacted by a printer error and told voters to place their ballots in drop-boxes or find another location to vote, which Finchem and others—like GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake—said caused their voters to be disenfranchised.
But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Melissa Julian ruled on Dec. 16 that none of Finchem’s allegations had merit and said it would not reverse the election results, dismissing the petition. The judge also granted a request from Hobbs’s and Fontes’s attorneys to file motions to sanction Finchem’s lawyer, McCauley.
“None of these alleged acts constitutes ‘misconduct’ sufficient to survive dismissal,” the judge said, according to reports.
Julian also wrote that Finchem’s argument that Hobbs’ move not to recuse herself doesn’t warrant a re-do of the election.
“Seeking or holding a public office does not grant elected officials a financial or ownership interest in the job they hold or seek. To the contrary, ‘the nature of the relation of a public officer to the public is inconsistent with either a property or a contract right. Every public office is created in the interest and for the benefit of the people, and belongs to them,’” the judge wrote, Fox reported.
Kari Lake Case Goes to Trial
In a separate case, Lake’s election challenge went to a two-day trial that concluded Thursday. Her lawyers, too, focused on problems with ballot printers at some polling places in Maricopa County, home to more than 60 percent of Arizona’s voters. The defective printers produced ballots that were too light to be read by the on-site tabulators at polling places. Lines backed up in some areas amid the confusion, according to the suit.
County officials say everyone had a chance to vote and that all ballots were counted, adding ballots affected by printer issues were taken to more sophisticated counters at the elections department headquarters.
Abha Khanna, a lawyer representing Hobbs, rebuffed Lake’s claims and said they are based on hearsay, speculation, and theatrics. “What we got instead was just loose threads and gaping plot holes,” she said.
But Lake, in a news conference on Thursday, said she believes her lawyers presented a solid case.
“We proved without a shadow of a doubt that there was malicious intent that caused disruption so great it changed the results of the election,” Lake said outside the Maricopa County courthouse. “We provided expert testimony. We provided experts. The other side brought in activists to try to save face. They admitted that they’ve known about these ballot problems.”
Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson, an appointee of former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, didn’t say when he would issue a ruling.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.