What to know about GOP election challenges in Arizona’s Maricopa County
The GOP is locked in a battle with Arizona’s Maricopa County over its handling of the midterm elections, with Republicans claiming voter disenfranchisement and demanding certification delays as election officials vow to move ahead.
The campaigns of Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and Republican secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem have called for an election redo, contesting county officials’ assertion that affected voters could still cast legal ballots.
GOP figures have already mounted legal challenges and promised to dig in as the county, which spans the Phoenix area and comprises about 60 percent of Arizona’s population, becomes the epicenter of Republican election challenges this year.
Here are five things to know about the issues:
Allegations are centered on printer issues
Maricopa residents can cast a ballot at any of the county’s voting centers, so poll workers print customized ballots on demand to match one of more than 12,000 ballot styles, depending on where a voter lives.
But after previously testing the printers, county officials say they began hearing at 6:30 am on Election Day that some machines were printing ballots too light for tabulators to read.
Maricopa officials on Sunday said the issues were rooted in the printers’ fusers.
They say they identified a solution by 11:30 am, dispatching technicians to change printer settings at 71 of the county’s 223 vote centers throughout the day, adding that not all of those locations were ultimately confirmed to have printer issues.
The GOP has seized on those malfunctions, claiming they led to a range of issues that effectively disenfranchised voters.
Lake’s campaign has further alleged that election workers were aware of the issues as early as Nov. 2, arguing it “never needed to occur.”
Officials insist no voter was disenfranchised
Maricopa County officials acknowledge the malfunctions but insist voters could utilize one of multiple backup options: waiting until the issue was resolved, casting a ballot at another vote center or depositing the ballot in a separate box for tabulation later, known as “door 3.”
“Maricopa County followed state and federal laws to ensure every voter was provided the opportunity to cast a ballot,” Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates (R) said in a statement on Sunday.
Republicans have lambasted the backup plans, arguing it still led to disenfranchisement.
“Because of the printer/tabulator problems, the polling locations were chaotic, voters were frustrated and voters had to endure long lines,” Lake’s campaign said in court filings.
Maricopa officials pushed back on those criticisms in a response to the Arizona attorney general’s office on Sunday, asserting the average wait time was six minutes.
Republicans have also argued workers did not properly check out voters who went to a second location, meaning it would appear as if they were fraudulently casting a second ballot and result in it not being counted.
Maricopa said 206 residents voted at a second location and acknowledged that 122 were not properly checked out at the first vote center. Those voters cast provisional ballots, and the county says they ultimately tabulated all but 13 of them.
Lake and others have also railed against officials for instructing voters to place ballots in “door 3” if they experienced the issue, posting videos of voters who lacked confidence their ballot was counted.
The county suggested some voters did opt against using “door 3” but placed the blame on party figures like Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward and conservative activist Charlie Kirk, who on Election Day encouraged voters on Twitter to not place their ballots in the separate container.
“I guess what I’ve heard here is that these folks listen to Charlie Kirk,” Gates said at a Nov. 12 press conference. “So maybe if Charlie Kirk would take the facts down that we’re presenting and share that with the folks, they would feel better.”
GOP candidates have mounted legal challenges
A Republican coalition began mounting legal challenges over the issues on Election Day, asking for an extension of voting hours in Maricopa.
A state judge rejected the motion moments before polls closed, saying he had seen no evidence a voter was prevented from casting a ballot.
Last week, Republican attorney general nominee Abraham Hamadeh formally contested his election result alongside the Republican National Committee.
Hamadeh trails his opponent by just 510 votes out of 2.5 million ballots cast ahead of an expected recount; he argued to a judge that vote tabulations need changes to rectify the issues, insisting it would result in him emerging victorious.
Lake, who trails Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs (D) by a far larger margin of about 17,000 votes, has not yet contested her election.
But her campaign sued Maricopa over public records requests related to the malfunctions, and Lake’s attorney argued in filings that the problems meet the legal threshold for the county to delay its certification.
Lake declined to commit to accepting results prior to the election
Lake, to ally of former President Trump, sidestepped questions on multiple occasions prior to the election about whether she would accept the election results.
“I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result,” Lake told CNN’s Dana Bash on Oct. 16
“If you lose, will you accept that?” Bash followed up. Lake responded with the same phrasing.
Speaking with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Oct. 23, Lake similarly hedged.
“I will accept the results of this election if we have a fair, honest and transparent election, absolutely, 100 percent,” Lake said.
Battle grows over state’s upcoming certification
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State officials will certify the election on Dec. 5, but GOP figures have scorned a refusal by Hobbs, Arizona’s governor-elect who currently serves as secretary of state, to recuse herself from signing the paperwork.
Hobbs’s office has portrayed the certification as a ministerial act, noting that the paperwork will also be signed by some Arizona Republicans, like Gov. Doug Ducey.
“For the governor, if he says he’s going to certify this, and Katie Hobbs to certify this, I think they really better think long and hard,” Lake said on former Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s show last week.