Pinal County officials deny burgeoning claims that they withheld information about ballot discrepancies from the courts and from voters.
Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer denies accusations from failed Republican attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh and an Arizona Daily Independent article from Dec. 31 claiming that he deliberately kept a judge uninformed about ballot issues that would have allegedly helped Hamadeh’s election challenge.
After losing his race, Hamadeh filed a lawsuit in Mohave County but named leaders in Pinal County and other counties as defendants. The lawsuit was dismissed, but Hamadeh has now filed another suit arguing that because Pinal County turned up just over 500 ballots that mostly favored Hamadeh in a recount election – though not enough to give him the win – proves that further ballot inspection will overturn the election results.
Hamadeh echoes claims in the Arizona Daily Independent article that the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and county attorney Volkmer “kept substantive information” regarding the recount from Mohave County Judge Lee Jantzen before he dismissed Hamadeh’s challenge.
“That article uses a single CI that lied through his teeth,” Volkmer said. “We had no idea about issues until after the canvass and didn’t have full grasp until 12/20. Had Hamadeh or Judge Jantzen asked us any questions, I would had to have sought leave in the Maricopa case to do so.” Volkmer and the Board of Supervisors were also under a court order from a Maricopa County judge to stay silent on information regarding the recount.
“Pinal was never requested to speak or provide info, so we never sought leave to speak,” Volkmer added. He also said that no one reached out to him for comment on the article and that he believes the source that the Arizona Daily Independent used is a sitting Pinal County supervisor. No source is cited.
Hamadeh claims that issues were known to Pinal officials before the Nov. 21 canvass. Volkmer and Elections Director Geraldine Roll said that the only issue they saw by that time was 60 voters whose IDs did not populate on the check-in tablets, but they were still allowed to vote.
Roll confirmed that the election canvass happened quickly, about a week before it needed to be done. She said there might not have been time to look as thoroughly at the ballots. Hamadeh cited the early canvass as evidence that the election was botched by the county.
Pinal County Supervisor Jeff Serdy said the canvass happened early because they were “just trying to be as efficient and transparent as possible.”
According to a timeline provided to the public at the most recent Pinal County Board of Supervisors meeting, at the end of November, the county elections department found that the number of people checked in didn’t line up with the number of ballots and they launched an investigation.
The Maricopa County court order took place on Dec. 5 and required county officials to not share confidential recount information. The county informed the Secretary of State’s office of emerging discrepancies on Dec. 7 and did three recounts before submitting a final discrepancy report on Dec. 21 and the final recount results on Dec. 22. Hamadeh’s election challenge was dismissed on Dec. 23, and the Secretary of State was allowed to delay the release until Dec. 29. Attorney General-elect Kris Mayes was sworn in as attorney general on Monday and Hamadeh asked for a new trial in Mohave County Superior Court on Wednesday.
In the Attorney General’s recount, Hamadeh picked up some votes and narrowed the tight margin between himself and Mayes, but Mayes also picked up some votes and still won.
Hamadeh also accuses the Secretary of State’s office of knowing that there was a discrepancy in votes favoring Hamadeh and purposefully withholding that information from the Mohave County judge that would have turned the tide in his case. Hamadeh wants to inspect more ballots under the assumption that he will unearth more votes for himself.
Serdy said the accusations in the article are probably originating from “people who lost, that probably feel like they shouldn’t have lost,” but didn’t name Hamadeh. He said the Board of Supervisors “definitely” wouldn’t have known about any discrepancies before Dec 7. The supervisors are all Republicans.
Serdy said the Election Day problems are not the result of fraud, but the result of human error. He did accuse Maricopa County of having much more serious problems. “We don’t want to model anything out for Maricopa County because they’re a total mess. So, we ran a flawless election compared to them,” he said on Wednesday.
Going forward, Serdy said that no “heads will roll,” but he’d like to know whether the elections director and recorder positions could be hybridized if that would help streamline the elections process.
Arizona Capitol Times reporter Kiera Riley contributed to this report.