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Election challenges mount

Kris Mayes is asking a judge to toss a bid by her Republican foe to void the results of the election which shows her winning the race for attorney general.

In new legal papers, Dan Barr, Mayes’ attorney, said the lawsuit filed last week by Abe Hamadeh and the Republican National Committee is filled with various allegations ranging from poll worker misconduct to errors in duplicating ballots when the original could not be read by scanners.

“But their claims are based on no more than speculation and conjecture,” Barr told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Frank Moskowitz. “Plaintiffs offer little factual support for their claims.

Instead, he said, Hamadeh and the RNC are using the court “to engage in a fishing expedition to try to undermine Arizona’s election.”

And there’s something else.

Democrat Kris Mayes, candidate Arizona Attorney General, smiles prior to a televised debate against Republican Abraham Hamadeh, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Barr said even if everything Hamadeh alleged were true – a point he is not conceding – none of it matters. He said the GOP contender can’t prove any of this would have altered the outcome of the election or the final tally which showed Mayes winning by 510 votes.

Take, for example, the claim that votes were counted wrong when ballots were duplicated. Barr said the lawsuit does not identify a single voter who selected Hamadeh but had the vote wrongly counted for Mayes.

“It’s just as possible that correcting any ballot duplication efforts would lead only to more votes for Ms. Mayes,” he said.

Then there’s a claim that some early ballots were counted even when the signature on the envelope did not match what was on file in the person’s voter registration record. But here, too, Barr said, the claim “would still fail as a matter of law because he alleges no facts establishing that any illegal votes were sufficient to change the outcome of the election.”

Republican candidate for Arizona Attorney General, Abraham Hamadeh, smiles prior to a televised debate against Democrat Kris Mayes on Sept. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

And Barr told Moskowitz that some of what Hamadeh wants is beyond his ability to grant, such as allowing people who checked in at a voting center on Nov. 8 but did not get to cast a ballot to now have another chance to vote.

A hearing is set for Monday.

The lawsuit over the race for attorney general is the latest legal scrap in what continues to be a series of issues and questions about both how the general election was conducted and whether the results are accurate.

Unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial contender Kari Lake has filed her own lawsuit against Maricopa County.

But Lake, unlike Hamadeh, is not asking that a judge overturn the results showing Democrat Katie Hobbs winning the race by more than 17,000 votes statewide – at least not yet. Instead, she contends the county has failed to “promptly” respond to a Nov. 15 request for a series of documents related to what happened on Election Day.

“Given instances of misprinted ballots, the commingling of counted and uncounted ballots, and long lines discouraging people from voting … these records are necessary for plaintiff to determine the full extent of the problems identified and their impacts on electors,” wrote Tim La Sota, her attorney. He also alleged several violations of election laws, like mixing counted and uncounted ballots in the same container and failing to reconcile the number of ballots cast with the number of people who signed in at voting centers.

And Lake is doing more than hinting an election challenge based on what she learns.

Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at the Republican watch party in Scottsdale, Ariz., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

“The law allows the public and plaintiff only a short period of time in the context of an election to seek relief from the court for violations of their rights,” La Sota said, saying the failure of the county to respond to her request for records “is preventing the courts from performing their duty.”

Lake, who trailed Hobbs in Maricopa County by more than 37,000 votes, wants an order for the county to give her the records sought prior to the returns being formally “canvassed.”

Only thing is, the county is set to do that at 9:30 a.m. Monday. And county offices have been closed since Wednesday afternoon.

The merits of Lake’s claim about public records aside, she is not likely to be the first in line to get her request answered.

More than a week ago, Attorney General Mark Brnovich submitted his own list of questions he wants the county to answer about what happened on Election Day. And these go beyond the highly publicized problems that some voters could not get their ballots immediately tallied at polling places because of the printer problems.

Jennifer Wright, the director of Brnovich’s Elections Integrity Unit, acknowledged that voters whose ballots were rejected by the counter had the option of simply dropping them into “door 3” to be tallied after the polls closed. But she said there is evidence that these were not handled properly.

Wright also wants answers to why some people who chose to go to a second location to vote were given “provisional ballots.” These were not counted because the records showed — inaccurately — that they had voted at the first site.

Overall, she said, statements by the county “appear to confirm potential statutory violations of Title 16,” the state Elections Code.

Wright wants answers by the 9:30 a.m. Monday canvass because “these issues relate to Maricopa County’s ability to lawfully certify election results.” But Wright gave no indication that anything her office ultimately finds or any conclusions reached will alter the outcome of the races.

A county spokesman said responding to the Attorney General’s Office will be a priority.

But that’s not the only thing that is pushing back any response from the county to Lake’s public records bid.

Townsend, ballot watchers, Clean Elections USA, Finchem, judge

Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa

Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction, has issued a subpoena with her own list of questions she wants answered – and also ahead of Monday’s county canvass. And many of these relate to the central question of why tabulators were not reading all the ballots printed out at vote centers.

The supervisors have scheduled an executive session with their attorneys ahead of canvassing the returns. But there appear to be the necessary votes on the board, which has a 4-1 Republican makeup, to declare the results accurate.

Any action Monday will come over the objection of the Maricopa County Republican Committee.

On Friday the organization asked the Republican-controlled board to delay certification until the county has “fully responded” both to Wright’s demand and its own public records request “providing critical information that Maricopa County voters were NOT disenfranchised by these failures to such a degree that it has had a material impact on the results of this election.”

Less clear is what will happen in Cochise County which faces the same Monday deadline.

The two Republican supervisors, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby, voted more than a week ago to delay their formal certification. They claimed the counting equipment had not be properly certified.

From left are Kirsten Engel and Juan Ciscomani

Since that time, state Elections Director Kori Lorick has written all three board members calling those claims “false.”

“These claims are derived from baseless conspiracies about Arizona’s equipment certification process,” she wrote. “Cochise County’s election equipment was properly certified and remains in compliance with state and federal requirements.”

And Lorick said if board fails to act, Lorick warned, the Secretary of State’s Office will sue. And she said that if there is no certification by that Dec. 5 state deadline, the canvass will proceed – without the county votes.

“Your refusal to certify will only serve to disenfranchise Cochise County voters,” Lorick said.

That, in turn, would mean the official statewide tally would not include the Cochise County votes, potentially changing the results of multiple elections.

One could be the race for Congress where final results showed Republican Juan Ciscomani outpolling Democrat Kirsten Engel by about 5,200 votes.

In Cochise County, Ciscomani had nearly 14,000 more votes than Engle. Leaving them out of the statewide total would make her the winner.

Separately, supervisors in Mohave County have so far refused to certify election results there, not because of any claim that the results there were inaccurate but more as a protest against the voting issues that arose in Maricopa County. But the canvass is on the Monday agenda.

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