By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Three Republican nominees for state government positions in Arizona on Friday filed three separate lawsuits to formally contest the midterm election results that saw their Democrat opponents win.
Arizona candidate for governor Kari Lake, Arizona candidate for attorney general Abe Hamadeh, and Arizona candidate for secretary of state Mark Finchem, each filed separate lawsuits just days after the state’s top officials on Dec. 5 certified Arizona’s Nov. 8 election results in most races. Candidates have five days following certification to formally contest election results in court.
Current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, certified herself as the winner of the gubernatorial race after results showed she beat Lake by about 0.6 points, or 17,117 votes out of about 2.5 million cast. Hobbs had faced calls prior to the election to recuse herself from secretary of state duties.
Democrat Kris Mayes beat Hamadeh by under 0.1 points, or a margin of 511 votes out of 2.5 million cast, making it one of the closest contests in state history. Meanwhile, Democrat Adrian Fontes beat Finchem by about 4.8 points or 120,208 votes out of 2.5 million cast.
According to Arizona law, any race where the margin is within 0.5 points automatically goes to a recount. As such, the race for Arizona attorney general went to a recount on Wednesday. Two other races—the state superintendent race and a state House race, also went to a recount on the same day. A judge is set to announce the results of the recounts by Dec. 22.
Kari Lake Lawsuit
Lake filed a 70-page lawsuit (pdf) against Hobbs as a candidate as well as in her official capacity as a Secretary of State, and other top Arizona election officials on Friday. “If the process was illegitimate then so are the results,” she announced on Twitter upon filing the lawsuit.
Among other demands for relief, Lake is seeking an order to “[set] aside the certified result of the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election and declaring that Kari Lake is the winner” of the election, or in the alternative, an order “vacating the certified results” of the election and an injunction requiring that Maricopa County re-conduct the election “in conformance with all applicable law and excluding all improper votes.”
Lake, who has refused to concede to Hobbs, argued in the Friday lawsuit that “hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots infected the election in Maricopa County” and that the number of illegal votes cast in the election “far exceeds the 17,117 vote margin” in the gubernatorial race.
Attorneys for Lake said in the filing that “thousands of Republican voters were disenfranchised” amid problems in connection with “widespread tabulator or printer failures.”
Citing whistleblower and witness testimony, attorneys alleged that Maricopa County officials “violated Arizona chain of custody laws for hundreds of thousands” of mail-in ballots. With no chain of custody, there is “no way to tell whether over 300,000 ballots cast in Maricopa County are legal ballots,” they wrote.
Maricopa County election officials also “permitted the counting of tens of thousands of mail-in and drop box ballots that did not satisfy signature verification requirements,” including allowing “tens of thousands of ballots with signature mismatches.”
“Arizonans made their voices heard and elected Katie Hobbs as their governor,” Hobbs’ campaign said in a statement posted to Twitter. “No nuisance lawsuit will change that.” The campaign also asserted that “independent experts and local elections officials of both parties have made clear that this was a safe, secure, and fair election.”
The latest suit comes after Lake on Nov. 23 sued election officials in Maricopa County in a separate lawsuit, demanding a response to her public records request seeking election records regarding mechanical issues on Nov. 8 so she can challenge the results of the election.
Lake’s campaign had also previously asked a state judge to extend voting hours in Maricopa County on Nov. 8, arguing that “significant issues” with voting machines caused some voters to be denied the opportunity to vote. But the judge rejected the request, denying any evidence that voters were denied such an opportunity.
Abe Hamadeh, RNC Lawsuit
Hamadeh joined the Republican National Committee (RNC) and others in filing an election contest lawsuit (pdf) against Hayes, as well as Hobbs and other top state election officials.
Attorneys for Hamadeh and the RNC noted in the filing that plaintiffs are not alleging “fraud, manipulation or other intentional wrongdoing” in the election, but are bringing the lawsuit “to ensure that all lawfully cast votes are properly counted and that unlawfully cast votes are not counted.”
The filing alleges that the Nov. 8 election “was afflicted with certain errors and inaccuracies in the management of some polling operations,” the cumulative effects of which is “material to the race for Arizona Attorney General.”
“Arizona law permits any elector to initiate a contest proceeding to ensure that inaccuracies or illegalities in the canvassed returns are judicially remedied, and the declared result conforms to the will of the electorate,” the filing reads.
Attorneys noted multiple errors took place at Maricopa County polling locations. “Maricopa County faced unprecedented and unacceptable issues on Election Day. Arizonans deserved better,” Hamadeh said on Twitter in comments related to the lawsuit.
“I’m desperately worried about our country. Right now confidence in our elections are [sic] at an all time low due to the hubris and incompetence of election officials to not take legitimate election issues seriously,” he added.
Hobbs’ office confirmed they received the lawsuit and are reviewing it, reported AZFamily.
Maricopa County on Twitter responded to the lawsuits filed by Lake and Hamadeh: “The court system is the proper place for campaigns challenging the results to make their case. Maricopa County respects the election contest process and looks forward to sharing facts about the administration of the 2022 General Election and our work to ensure every legal voter had an opportunity to cast their ballot.”
Mark Finchem Lawsuit
Finchem, the Republican candidate for Arizona secretary of state, alongside GOP congressional candidate Jeff Zink, filed a lawsuit against Fontes and Zink’s opponent Ruben Gallego, as well as Hobbs in her official capacity as the current secretary of state.
The complaint (pdf) said, citing an “obvious conflict of interest,” that Hobbs should have recused herself from her role as secretary of state because she was running for governor. Attorneys for Finchem and Zink also alleged that Hobbs “negligently or intentionally” failed to fulfill the duty of making sure there were “no defects in the election process.”
Among multiple requests, the suit asked that the court order a referral to the state’s attorney general to investigate Hobbs for “willful acts in violation of impartiality.” It also asked for a potential paper ballot revote.