Arizona state officials meet on Monday to conduct the state’s ballot and officially declare winners from last month’s election, a once low-profile move that this year is expected to spark lawsuits from several Republicans.
GOP figures have seized on printing errors in Maricopa County’s most populous jurisdiction, disputed election officials’ insistence that no voters were disenfranchised, and vowed to fight back in court as the state moves forward.
The campaigns of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Republican Attorney General Abraham Hamadeh have both signaled they will take legal action after tomorrow’s meeting, and the certification is also expected to trigger recounts in several close races.
Republicans have also criticized Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) for refusing to recuse herself from signing Monday’s paperwork now that she has been elected governor after defeating Lake last month.
Hobbs’ office has pushed back on that criticism, casting it as a ministerial act, noting that Gov. Doug Ducey (R), Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) and the state Supreme Court’s chief justice are also expected to attend.
The standoff echoes two years ago, when Ducey ignored a call from former President Trump to overturn President Biden’s victory in the state.
Here’s what to expect after Arizona certifies the vote tomorrow at 8 p.m. 10 local time:
Under state law, election officials conduct recounts of races where the vote margin between candidates is less than 0.5 percent after the state canvass.
Sophia Solis, a spokeswoman for Hobbs’ office, said that means Monday’s meeting will trigger reports on the contests for attorney general, state superintendent and a state legislative seat near Phoenix.
In the attorney general’s race, Hamadeh, the Republican nominee, trails Democrat Kris Mayes by just 510 votes out of more than 2.5 million ballots cast — a margin of just 0.02 percent.
The razor-thin margin also would have gone to an automatic recount in previous years, but a new law passed by the state legislature earlier this year increased the threshold from 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent.
That will force Republican Tom Horne and Democrat Kathy Hoffman’s race for state inspector to also go to a recount. Horne currently leads Hoffman by 0.36 percentage points, or about 9,000 raw votes.
New GOP lawsuits
Hamadeh’s and Lake’s campaigns have both indicated they will contest the results after the state’s investigation on Monday. Under state law, they have five days to do so after the meeting.
Hamadeh had already formally challenged his election results in court, but a state judge dismissed the case as premature and said Hamadeh must wait until the state’s investigation takes place.
Democrats had asked the judge to dismiss the case with prejudice so Hamadeh would not be able to retry it after Monday, but the judge declined to do so.
“The plaintiff’s action is premature,” the judge ruled. “That doesn’t mean the plaintiffs should wait to file suit until after a recount that everyone agrees will be necessary for this race.”
A spokesman for Hamadeh said last week that he planned to reopen the case after the state hearing, adding that “the merits of the trial still stand.”
Hamadeh’s case focuses largely on printer errors in Maricopa County — which includes Phoenix and about 60 percent of Arizona’s population — that printed ballots too light for tabulators to read.
County election officials have insisted voters could use one of several backup options, but Hamadeh’s now-dismissed lawsuit accuses them of wrongdoing and disputes statistics they have released about the problems.
Lake’s campaign has yet to formally dispute her election results, but Trump allies have conducted a series of interviews in recent days that signal she will.
“We will file our lawsuit after it is certified at the state level,” Lake told conservative radio host Joe Pags last week. “And we think we have an excellent lawsuit. We have great lawyers working on it.”
Continue of existing legal proceedings
Although Lake has not formally contested her election results, she and others have filed other lawsuits in the wake of the election.
Lake’s campaign was sued last month over public records requests it filed asking for additional data on the malfunctions in Maricopa County, asking a state judge to delay the county’s certification until it completes the request.
Maricopa’s GOP-controlled board unanimously approved its voting concept last week after responding to a separate request for information from the Arizona attorney general.
The judge has now expedited the case and scheduled a hearing for Wednesday afternoon.
“The court hopes that the parties will resolve this dispute prior to the hearing, in which case the hearing will not be necessary,” the judge wrote in announcing the timeline.
Other Arizona Republicans have filed a series of lawsuits that have also been unsuccessful so far, but it’s possible they could still appeal.