Election Lawsuits Take Center Stage Across Arizona

pima county vote tabulator

A judge suggested Monday there could be “several” elections challenges filed in courts across Arizona in the coming days, but as of the end of the day there were six key active lawsuits which could reasonably impact Arizona’s election results.

A lawsuit filed last week by Abe Hamadeh, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, along with the Republican National Committee was the subject of oral arguments Monday afternoon about whether the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Hamadeh and the RNC allege myriad errors involving the administration of the 2022 General Election throughout the state. Some of those errors allegedly involved election board misconduct, the tallying of unlawful ballots due to improper signature verification, and the erroneous counting of votes.

Their lawsuit names Democratic AG candidate Kris Mayes and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as defendants, along with the state’s 15 county recorders and the 15 county boards of supervisors.

However, attorneys for Mayes and Hobbs filed separate motions to dismiss the lawsuit based on arguments that such a challenge cannot be filed until after the statewide election results are canvassed next week.

Judge Randall Warner of the Maricopa County Superior Court heard oral arguments on the motions Monday. The numerous parties taking part agreed that even if Warner dismisses the lawsuit as premature, it will simply be refiled in the next week or so.

Warner is expected to rule on the motions to dismiss this week.

Just hours before the hearing in Hamadeh’s case, an election challenge was filed Monday morning by Shelby Busch which calls into question whether Maricopa County officials mishandled the tabulation of write in votes for the Legislative District 22 state senate race.

The LD22 contest was unique this year as the lone candidate listed on the ballot -Diego Espinoza- withdrew from the race after the ballots were printed. There was

no Republican nominee, so the new LD22 senator will come from among several registered write-in candidates representing both parties.

In LD senate races, voters may cast a vote for only one candidate. When a voter errantly or intentionally votes for two or more candidates it is considered an overvote in which no vote is tallied for any candidate in that race.

County election results show the top write-in vote getter was Eva Diaz, a Democrat.

Yet Busch, who lives in LD22, contends Maricopa County elections officials violated state law when they improperly counted votes in situations where a voter filled in the oval for Espinoza and also filled in an oval next to the name of a write-in candidate.

Busch’s lawsuit alleges that in such situations, Maricopa County counted the vote for the write-in candidate, even though Arizona law is clear that an overvoted ballot is not to be tallied for any candidate in the effected race.

“The actions here involved the erroneous application of the law in terms of how to count votes – elections officials had a duty to count them in the manner required by statute, and they failed to do so,” the lawsuit argues.

As a result, Busch is asking a judge to annul the current LD22 state senate results and order Maricopa County officials to retabulate the ballots in that race. This could lead, the lawsuit contends, to a showing that another write-in candidate was actually the recipient of the most votes.

Also on Monday, two lawsuits were filed against the Cochise County Board of Supervisors in an effort to force at least one of the two Republican supervisors to vote with the board’s Democratic chairwoman to canvass the county’s election results.

The county canvass was on the board’s agenda Monday morning but the item was tabled until Friday, several days passed the statutory Nov. 28 deadline. As result, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has filed suit against the board, as has the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans (AARA).

The AARA also has a lawsuit pending at the Arizona Court of Appeals involving efforts by the Cochise County BOS to conduct an expanded hand count beyond the

limited scope described in elections law. The appellate court has agree to hear the county’s appeal of a Pima County judge’s ruling that the supervisors have no legal authority to do an expanded hand count.

The sixth active election-related lawsuit was filed last week by the Kari Lake for Arizona committee. That case involves efforts to force Maricopa County officials to “promptly” respond to a public records request.

Of the current lawsuits, the one involving the race between Hamadeh and Mayes could have the most widespread impact.

Hamadeh and Mayes are separated by just 510 votes out of more than 2.5 million ballots cast statewide, a margin of two one-hundredths of one percent (0.02%). That margin will trigger a statutory recount once the statewide election results are canvassed by Hobbs next week, assuming Cochise County’s election results are included in the state canvass totals.

One of the questions Judge Warner needs to resolve if he keeps the current lawsuit alive is how the election challenge would proceed in light of the mandatory recount process.