Hand Count Lawsuit Dismissed, Election Day Lawsuit Remains

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(Photo by Tim Evanson/Creative Commons)

A claim by the Arizona Republican Party that Maricopa County officials improperly conducted a mandatory ballot hand count came up short Thursday when Judge John Hannah denied the party’s request for an injunction that could have prevented the board of supervisors from canvassing the voting results before the Nov. 23 deadline.

Hannah also ended the Republicans’ elections challenge when he granted motions to dismiss filed by county officials, the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, and the Arizona Democratic Party, all of whom argued the county’s recent manual hand count audit of five contested races from a random sampling of ballots from two percent of the county’s 175 voting centers complied with state law.

The hand count conducted by representatives of Maricopa County’s Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican parties of nearly 3,000 of the 167,878 ballots cast in-person on Election Day and 5,165 of the 2 million early ballots was compared to the reports generated by the electronic tabulation machines for the same sampling of ballots. County officials and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Nov. 11 that the audit was completed with a 100 percent match.

Although the local Republican party did not object at the time to the method for how the ballots were selected, the state party leadership contended the audited ballots needed to be selected based on two percent of the county’s 748 precincts.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Joseph Kanefield advised Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Russell Bowers, both Republicans, that auditing voting centers instead of precincts was acceptable. However, party leaders moved forward with the lawsuit.

Hannah’s dismissal order did not provide his reasoning behind his decision, so it’s unknown at this time whether he determined the Republicans proved their precincts over voting center argument but simply waited too long to initiate a challenge, or if he sided with the other parties that picking the sampling from two percent of voting centers complied with the three statutes which address hand counts.

Hannah’s ruling on Thursday doesn’t seem to have dissuaded state Republican leaders from pursuing claims of voter fraud in Arizona, as Fann announced voters can use an email, 2020election@azleg.gov, to report “evidence of fraud or other voting irregularities.”

A detailed findings is expected soon, Hannah noted, and the dismissal is with prejudice, meaning the underlying claims cannot be refiled by the Arizona Republican Party. The formal ruling is also expected to address whether political organization will be on the hook for attorneys’ fees and court costs incurred by the defendants.

In the meantime, another Maricopa County judge will conduct an elections challenge trial on Friday in a lawsuit filed by two county voters who claim they encountered problems voting on Election Day. But even if the voters win their case, their attorneys have already acknowledged it will only result in one additional ballot being cast in the election.

While much attention has recently focused on Maricopa County’s hand count, little has been made of the fact 5 of Arizona’s 15 counties did not conduct the statutorily-required audit after the general election. Those counties -Apache, Gila, Graham, La Paz, and Yuma, informed Secretary of State Katie Hobbs that various local political parties did not participate in the process and therefore the hand counts were cancelled.