Arizona Judge Tosses GOP Suit Seeking Maricopa Ballot Audit

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An Arizona judge dismissed a Republican lawsuit seeking to force the state’s biggest county to re-do a hand recount of some ballots despite having no evidence of voter fraud or software errors.

The suit by the Arizona Republican Party was thrown out Thursday by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah, who expressed skepticism about the case at a hearing this week in Phoenix. Democrats had accused the state GOP of intentionally trying to make the county miss the state’s Nov. 30 deadline for certifying election results.

Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, favored President-elect Joe Biden in the election, helping deliver his narrow margin of victory in the state over President Donald Trump.

The Nov. 12 lawsuit argued the county’s state-mandated hand count of a sample of ballots -- to audit voting machine accuracy -- must be repeated because officials sampled votes from 2% of polling places, called vote centers, instead of 2% of precincts.

Late Challenge

Hannah suggested at the Wednesday hearing that the GOP could have challenged the audit rules before the election but failed to do so. He said he was “having a hard time” understanding why Republicans waited so long, given that they had a representative involved with the process more than two weeks before the election, during early voting.

“This audit process effectively started before the election,” Hannah said at the hearing. “They waited until after the election, until they knew how the vote had apparently come out, before they filed” the lawsuit.

The Arizona Democratic Party, which intervened in the suit, said in a motion to dismiss the case that the county’s audit was already complete and that it found “zero discrepancies from the machine tabulated count.”

At the hearing, GOP attorney John Wilenchik said it doesn’t matter if the county’s original audit didn’t find anything wrong because doing it again “makes sure there’s no fraud.”

“This is about ensuring integrity,” he said. “You gotta do them because it could turn up something.”

Geoff Burgan, the Biden Campaign’s Arizona communications director, said in a statement that the lawsuit was “frivolous and rightfully dismissed” and asked Governor Doug Ducey to move on.

“Arizona’s election was well-run and transparent, and far-right fringes of the Arizona Republican Party should stop trying to undermine Arizonans’ faith in free and fair elections,” Burgan said. “This ruling is a win for Arizonans who turned out in record numbers this fall. It’s time for Governor Ducey and others to move forward and recognize the will of the voters, given the pressing issues Arizona is facing with COVID-19.”

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