Arizona is becoming the epicenter of GOP challenges for the 2022 election

Arizona is now ground zero for GOP efforts to challenge the 2022 midterms as the party grapples with allegations of voter disenfranchisement.

On Tuesday, Republican attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh took the final step by filing a lawsuit challenging the results of his race, in which his Democratic challenger leads by 510 votes out of more than 2.5 million ballots before an expected recount.

It comes after two GOP-led counties in the Grand Canyon State voted to delay the certification of election results. Meanwhile, the battle is growing in Maricopa County’s most populous jurisdiction, where election officials acknowledge printer errors but insist affected voters still had multiple opportunities to vote.

The effort comes after former President Trump and his allies tried to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory in 2020, fueling concerns about the relegation of the GOP.

“It’s really a small group of people who are acting outside their authority,” said Jenny Gimian, senior policy adviser at the election education nonprofit Informing Democracy. “The normal process in Arizona has really a lot of accuracy checks. It is very thorough, very systematic and involves the participation and involvement of both major parties at all steps along the way.”

Carrie Lake, a Trump ally who lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs in the Arizona gubernatorial race earlier this month, refused to budge and called for a recount. Trump himself took things further, claiming without evidence that officials deliberately “took the election” away from Lake.

“Whether it was done by accident or on purpose, it is clear that this election was a failure that destroyed all confidence in our elections,” Lake said Monday.

But that view is not shared by all Republicans in the state. Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who has drawn Trump’s ire after refusing to overturn the results of the 2020 election, on Wednesday broke with Lake and publicly congratulates Hobbes on her victory.

Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters conceded to Sen. Mark Kelly (D) last week, but Masters still demanded the resignation of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, calling them “grossly careless” at best.

Officials in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, acknowledged that printers at 70 of the county’s 223 polling places on Election Day used ink that was too light for tabulation machines to read, but said voters can wait in line until the problem is resolved, vote at another polling center, or deposit their ballot in a separate box for counting later.

Hamadeh’s lawsuit, joined by the Republican National Committee, makes clear that “no fraud, manipulation or other willful wrongdoing” is alleged.

But among other allegations, the lawsuit alleges Maricopa officials failed to properly verify more than 400 affected voters who later voted at another vote center or in a box, suggesting the problems would lead to a recount of their ballots and will change the outcome of the extremely close race for attorney general.

“The election failures in Maricopa County have disenfranchised the citizens of Arizona. We’re going to court to get the answers voters deserve,” Rona McDaniel, Republican National Committee Chair wrote on Twitter.

The lawsuit is asking a state judge to order officials to change their tabulations to include affected voters and certify Hamadeh as the winner.

Maricopa County Communications Manager Jason Berry declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said, “Everyone had an opportunity to vote and all legal ballots are counted.”

“This race is scheduled to go to a recount where they’re going to revisit some of those processes and go over them to make sure again in a close race that they didn’t miss any mistakes that happened all along.” said Jimian of Informing Democracy. “So it really feels unlikely that it will be material enough to change the outcome.”

Arizona Attorney General Mark Burnovich (R) separately asked Maricopa officials to answer questions about the accidents, and the county promised to respond before Monday’s meeting to certify its campaign.

Meanwhile, protesters have occasionally appeared near the county’s central polling facility. On Friday, a convoy of vehicles toured the area in a strategy drawn from the “Freedom Convoy” earlier this year, which protested Canada’s pandemic restrictions.

“Threats have become sadly normal for our officers and election staff since the November 2020 election,” Berry said, adding that he did not yet know how many threats had been received since the midterm elections.

Outside Maricopa, citizens in rural parts of the state have convinced GOP officials in two counties to delay certification.

In Cochise County, which covers Arizona’s southeast corner, three conspiracy theorists argued without evidence that voting machines there were not properly certified, persuading the two Republicans on the three-member county board to support a postponement.

That includes Supervisor Peggy Judd (R), who attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally and promoted baseless claims of massive election fraud in 2020, even though she told the Tucson Sentinel she never entered the Capitol.

After the vote, both the Arizona State Elections Director and the Elias Law Group, which represents clients in a number of high-profile election cases, sent separate letters to the county threatening legal action if it did not certify by Monday’s statutory deadline.

“The board is kind of turning this ministerial act into an act of political theater,” said Jared Davidson, a lawyer with Protect Democracy. “They have to follow the will of the voters of Cochise County and certify the results, that’s their duty. Refusal to certify the results would invalidate or effectively disenfranchise those voters, the majority of whom are Republicans.

In the opposite corner of Arizona, the GOP-controlled Mojave County Board praised election officials there for delaying certification of its campaign on Monday, describing it as a political statement after the Maricopa troubles.

“Mojave County became, their votes were worth less than they were before this vote because of the mismanagement and dysfunction of the Maricopa County Department of Elections,” Mojave County Republican Party Chair Jeanne Kench said at the meeting.

Supervisor Hildy Angius (R) said in an email Wednesday that “many groups and individuals” have approached the county to delay the certification, and she vowed to certify next Monday.

“I will not put Mojave County in any legal or financial jeopardy for the mishandling of Maricopa,” Angius wrote. “This vote was only to delay certification so that those investigating and possibly litigating would have more time to do what they need to do.”

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