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Vote certified, GOP challenges continue

Supporters of President Donald Trump protest in front of a local hotel where Arizona Republicans have scheduled a meeting as a "fact-finding hearing" to discuss the election, featuring members of Trump's legal team and Arizona legislators, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Supporters of President Donald Trump protest in front of a local hotel where Arizona Republicans have scheduled a meeting as a “fact-finding hearing” to discuss the election, featuring members of Trump’s legal team and Arizona legislators, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Challengers to Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona will get documents they contend will cast enough doubt about the election results, void the just certified official tally and give the state’s 11 electoral votes to President Trump.

And an unofficial panel of Republican lawmakers that met Monday is moving to get the full legislature to do the same, though their ability to do that legally remains in question.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner, an appointee of former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, said Monday he will allow attorneys for state GOP Chair Kelli Ward to compare the signatures on 100 randomly selected envelopes which contained early ballots with the signatures for those same voters already on file.

Warner also ordered production of 100 ballots cast at polling places which were damaged or had other problems with the versions that were reproduced to ensure they could be read by the machines.

That in turn will lead to a hearing on Thursday where attorney Jack Wilenchik said he hopes to prove there were mistakes. He said that would allow Warner to extrapolate out the error rate and declare that the results which were officially reported — and officially certified Monday — are in doubt.

Randall Warner

Randall Warner

More to the point, Wilenchik told Warner that would require the judge to declare the results invalid.

And what that in turn would do, Wilenchik said, is leave it to the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature to decide who gets Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.

Only thing is, that the formal canvass of votes by officials from both parties, conducted at the same time, certified that Biden got 10,457 more votes than Trump. Even Gov. Doug Ducey, who backed Trump’s re-election bid, said Arizona’s election system is “strong,” though he did not address various claims of fraud or mistakes.

Ducey’s decision to sign the certification papers drew a rebuke from Trump who called into to an unofficial meeting of GOP lawmakers at a Phoenix hotel looking at election issues and said he had been watching.

The president said the evidence shows that he won. And Trump pointed out that Ducey’s signatures on the official canvass puts Democrat Mark Kelly into the Senate, immediately replacing Martha McSally whom he beat.

“You have a governor named Ducey who just rushed, couldn’t have gone faster, he just rushed to sign certificates so that Kelly gets into the Senate as soon as possible,” he said.

“Why would he sign when you have these incredible hearings going on that’s showing such corruption and such horrible fraud on the American people of Arizona,” the president continued. “So you have to figure out, what’s that all about with Ducey?”

The president may actually have sought to convince the governor not to sign the certification.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, left, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey bump elbows as they meet to certify the election results for federal, statewide, and legislative offices and statewide ballot measures at the official canvass at the Arizona Capitol Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, left, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey bump elbows as they meet to certify the election results for federal, statewide, and legislative offices and statewide ballot measures at the official canvass at the Arizona Capitol Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

As Ducey was inking his name to the papers his cell phone went off with a ringtone of “Hail to the Chief,” which the governor had previously said was his direct link to the White House. Ducey did not answer it.

The governor’s press aide said he could not say whether Ducey ever spoke with Trump on Monday. But the president, in a separate Twitter post, clearly made known his displeasure with the governor.

“Republicans will long remember!”

But Ducey, in a string of his own Twitter posts late Monday, defended the way the election was conducted.

“We got ID at the polls,” he said, with signatures on early ballots reviewed by hand. Ducey said Arizona has a ban on ballot harvesting, requires bipartisan ballot observers and does not allow counting of ballots received after Election Day.

And the governor pointed out that, even with the canvass, challengers have five days to make their case to a judge.

“If you want to contest the results, now is the time,” he said.

At the moment, the only challenge is the one filed by Ward.

Absent a ruling by Warner, that certification would appear to clear the way for the 11 electors pledged to Biden to vote for him when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14.

But Wilenchik said it doesn’t matter if there isn’t a final court ruling on his challenge before Dec. 14. Citing an 1892 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, he told the judge that the U.S. Constitution ultimately gives Congress, when it convenes in January, the authority to decide which electoral votes to count. And that, Wilenchik said, could be either those chosen through the popular vote — the one just certified — or those who would be selected by the Arizona Legislature if Warner were to void the results and overturn the canvass.

It isn’t just Wilenchik seeking to throw the issue to the legislature.

Mark Finchem

Mark Finchem

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, who chaired the GOP-only forum, said he is looking to give a report to legislative leaders in the next 24 hours urging them to call a special session with an eye on overruling the canvassed popular vote.

He was not deterred by the fact the Arizona Constitution requires a two-thirds vote for lawmakers to call themselves back to the Capitol. Finchem said that is trumped by the obligation of lawmakers under the U.S. Constitution to decide if an election has not been properly conducted.

“Not only do we have ballots that are improper but we have an election system that’s been hacked,” he said during a break in the hearing. And he said there is statistical evidence that the results could not be as reported.

Still, whatever the vote margin, a special session still requires the consent of House and Senate GOP leadership that to date has been unwilling to go down that path.

Much of the doubts on the result came from Rudy Giuliani, representing the Trump re-election team. And his biggest attack was on mail-in voting.

What makes that significant is that Trump bested Biden in Arizona by nearly 124,000 votes in ballots cast at polling places. But Biden won the state because his mail-in vote exceeded the president by about 138,000.

Guiliani said there is an inherent insecurity in mail-in voting because signatures are compared — and verified — solely by election workers without oversight from party observers. He contends there are at least 100,000 ballots that lack sufficient proof of matched signatures.

“These votes should be declared null and void,” Giuliani said.

That’s the same issue as Wilenchik is raising. He has a team of handwriting experts who will do the comparisons and determine which do not match.

The whole contention that election workers did not do their jobs right annoyed Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Joseph LaRue.

“Those who do the signature review receive training from the same folks who train FBI for signature analysis,” he said.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, had her own complaint about what she said might have been 36,000 ballots cast by people not in this country legally.

Ret. Col. Phil Waldren, presented as a cybersecurity expert, also detailed what they said were inherent insecurities and potential for fraud in voting machines by Dominion Software, which is used in Maricopa County. Giuliani said that allowed 143,000 ghost votes to be “injected” into the system.

Matt Brainard of the Voter Integrity Project said his researchers called a sample of people who he said had requested an early ballot in Maricopa County and found 44% said they had never requested it.

“It appears possible that someone else requested the ballot other than the voter of record,” he said. And Brainard extrapolated that out to possibly 500,000 in Maricopa County alone.

“Something went wrong here,” he said. “You can’t be confident what the vote count is.”

Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks at a hearing of the Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Policy Committee, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Gettysburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks at a hearing of the Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Policy Committee, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Gettysburg, Pa. Giuliani spoke Nov. 30, 2020, at a gathering of GOP lawmakers who seek to invalidate Arizona Election results. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Giuliani took a slap at both Ducey and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. He said there were lots of things that both could have done to determine whether people not here legally, convicted felons and other individuals ineligible to vote are casting ballots.

“It seems like the governor and secretary of state just don’t want the facts,” the former New York City mayor said.

Various official Republican election observers told lawmakers of things they saw about the process that lacked transparency or were legally questionable. That included Linda Brickman, first vice chair of the

Maricopa County Republican Party, who testified she saw Trump votes being tallied as Biden votes.

And Brickman, asked by Giuliani how Ducey could certify the vote total, responded that the governor is “bought and paid for.”

The lawsuit and the unofficial hearing both have the same goal: Raise enough questions to allow state lawmakers to declare the results invalid and declare that Trump gets Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.

Less clear is whether and how that could happen.

The clearer path would appear to be a declaration by Warner — and ultimately the Arizona Supreme Court — that based on the sampling he ordered that the results are in doubt.

“It’s enough to let us know if there’s a red flag,” he said. And Wilenchik said once a court voids the election result, it then is automatically up to the legislature to decide who gets those 11 electoral votes.

More problematic for Trump supporters is what happens if the courts leave the results intact.

Finchem continues to insist that is irrelevant. And he brushed aside the fact that the meeting was not official — House Speaker Rusty Bowers refused to allow a formal one — or that none of the witnesses were under oath, calling the evidence heard “good old fashioned mobster racketeering, but on a grand scale.”

“In the end, the people of the state of Arizona demand and, in fact, are entitled to know whether their trust has been violated and if they should seek redress for their grievances in the legislature or the courts,” Finchem said.

Roopali Desai

Roopali Desai

Warner’s decision to even allow the lawsuit by Ward to go to a hearing drew opposition from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Roopali Desai, her attorney, said it amounts to an illegal “fishing expedition.”

“This sets a very dangerous precedent,” she told the judge of having people file suit because they think there was something wrong.

“There is no basis to check if they did a good job,” she said. And Desai said that Ward “doesn’t have even a shred of proof that Maricopa County mistakenly accepted a single early ballot, to say nothing of enough to warrant overturning the results of a statewide election and nullifying the votes of over 3.42 million Arizonans.”

Warner conceded she may be right. But the judge said he would rather err on the side of allowing the case to proceed and then having the state Supreme Court tell him he was wrong than to dismiss it only to be told he has to start over again with time running out.

This is actually the fifth lawsuit seeking to challenge the results. Earlier ones, including one based on claims of misuse of Sharpies on ballots and election workers pressing the “green button” to have problem ballots submitted anyway, all have been dismissed.

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