It’s no secret the conduction of the 2022 midterm election in Maricopa County, Arizona, was a complete disaster. From misconfigured printers producing faulty ballots to long waiting lines, the list of problems witnessed throughout Arizona’s most populous county is seemingly endless.
And while the state’s Democrat victors have since been sworn into office following the certification of the 2022 election results, that hasn’t stopped Arizona’s GOP gubernatorial and attorney general candidates — Kari Lake and Abraham Hamadeh — from trying to achieve some form of accountability given the untold number of voters disenfranchised on Election Day. Despite a media blackout and a string of legal defeats, the two Republicans are still seeking legal remedies for the myriad issues that plagued the 2022 contest.
After having her lawsuit struck down in Maricopa’s Superior Court late last month, Lake has filed separate appeals with an appellate court and the Arizona Supreme Court. The former has since agreed to expedite her case to be heard before judges on Feb. 1.
In her suit, Lake alleges the tabulator problems Maricopa voters experienced on Election Day were “the result of intentional action” and that there were widespread failures by Maricopa election officials in maintaining chain-of-custody records for nearly 300,000 ballots, as required by Arizona law.
On Election Day, Maricopa poll workers at roughly 30 percent of the county’s voting centers began reporting that their respective vote tabulation machines were rejecting voters’ ballots, resulting in long wait times and widespread confusion among voters and election workers alike. Then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ margin of victory over Lake was about 17,000 votes.
During the case’s two-day trial last month, Lake’s legal team sought to prove the vote tabulators’ refusal to accept ballots stemmed from an intentionally misconfigured printer setting that didn’t comport with the size of the ballot paper. According to American Greatness, Lake’s lawyer’s claimed that after “a review of random ballots,” they discovered “that 48 out of 113 (42.5 percent) were ’19-inch ballots produced on 20-inch paper,’ causing them to be rejected.” Clay Parikh, a cybersecurity specialist and witness summoned to examine the ballots by the Lake campaign, cast doubt on the notion that such a scenario was accidental.
“I’ve reviewed the evidence, and the printers are configured via script, which by any large organization that has to do multiple systems is the standard,” Parikh said, responding “no” when asked if the alleged incorrect printer configuration could have happened “by accident.” “It takes away the human error of somebody miscoding in the instructions on the printer.”
Separately, though Maricopa County maintains it followed state law, court testimony and eyewitness reports from Lake’s trial allege that Maricopa County violated it by “failing to implement chain-of-custody documentation for Election Day ballots.” As The Federalist’s Staff Writer Victoria Marshall previously reported, an employee for Runbeck Election Services, which served as Maricopa County’s ballot tabulation vendor, says they received seven truckloads of Election Day drop box ballots hours after polls closed on election night that allegedly did not come with proper chain-of-custody forms.
“Arizona law requires the county recorder to show the origins and chain-of-custody documents for every drop box ballot obtained,” Marshall wrote. “According to Runbeck employee Denise Marie, Maricopa County violated state law by not counting and not recording the number of ballots retrieved from each drop box and transferring an unknown quantity of ballots from [the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center] to Runbeck with no chain-of-custody documentation. Because of this failure, no records exist to dispute or reconcile the discrepancy between the number of ballots Runbeck first reported (263,379) and its final tally (298,942).”
As part of her suit, Lake asked the court to vacate the certification of the 2022 gubernatorial contest and require Maricopa County to re-conduct another election “in conformance with all applicable law and excluding all improper votes.”
Despite numerous sworn affidavits and testimony from witnesses and election experts, Maricopa Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson ruled that the “Court DOES NOT find clear and convincing evidence of misconduct” with respect to claims regarding intentional altering of printer settings and improper chain-of-custody documentation. As Marshall reported, Thompson rejected arguments over the latter “due to [Maricopa County’s] assertion that such chain-of-custody documents exist, even though it failed to produce them.”
Attorney General’s Race
Hamadeh’s legal fight for election integrity is moderately different from Lake’s. In his original lawsuit, which was heard in Mohave County Superior Court last month, Hamadeh alleged numerous counts of illegal activity by Arizona election officials, including “wrongful disqualification of provisional and early ballots,” “exclusion of provisional voters,” and “inaccurate ballot duplications.”
“The  election … was afflicted with certain errors and inaccuracies in the management of some polling place operations, and in the processing and tabulation of some ballots,” the suit reads. “The cumulative effect of these mistakes is material to the race for Arizona Attorney General…”
Similar to Lake’s initial legal efforts, Hamadeh’s case was struck down, with Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen ruling that Hamadeh’s team didn’t meet “the burden” of proof with respect to his claims.
While the state’s initial results of Hamadeh’s race against Democrat Kris Mayes had the latter winning by 511 votes, an automatic recount of the contest found hundreds of uncounted votes in Pinal County that revealed Mayes’ lead to be much smaller, at 280 votes. That, as Hamadeh’s lawsuit noted, was “out of more than 2.5 million ballots cast.”
In response, Hamadeh, along with the Republican National Committee, filed a motion for a new trial in Mohave County, arguing that the recount “identified more problems in an election already riddled with process failures, thus casting further doubt about the actual result.”
“Even more unfortunately, this information … was not available to this Court at the time of trial,” Hamadeh’s legal team said in a statement. “The recount results identified significant, material discrepancies that cast doubt upon the completeness and accuracy of the election results.”
Hamadeh’s lawyers also allege that some Arizona election officials, such as then-Secretary of State and now-Gov. Hobbs, “knew about these material discrepancies” and intentionally withheld such information until after their initial trial.
Why It Matters
The success of Lake and Hamadeh’s legal efforts isn’t just vital for ensuring secure and fair elections for Arizonans; it’s also important for voters’ confidence in our democratic system. According to a Rasmussen survey released several weeks after the Nov. 8 election, 72 percent of U.S. likely voters agree that Arizona’s elections were “botched” and that state voters were denied their “sacred right to vote” on Election Day, including 45 percent who “strongly agree.”
It’s not just voters who aren’t confident in the outcome of Arizona’s elections, either. A post-election survey conducted by the Election Integrity Network found that a whopping 84 percent of Maricopa County election worker and poll watcher respondents are “not at all confident” Arizona’s election results are “completely accurate and honest.”
“I was in Ukraine in March within a week of the war starting and … at no point was it ever as overwhelming as it was on Election Day in Maricopa,” one poll worker told The Federalist last month.
If Americans are to have free and honest elections, then getting to the bottom of what happened in Arizona on Election Day is a must. Our institutions’ failure to provide voters answers and real accountability further undermines citizens’ faith in the democratic process.
Shawn Fleetwood is a Staff Writer for The Federalist and a graduate of the University of Mary Washington. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action and his work has been featured in numerous outlets, including RealClearPolitics, RealClearHealth, and Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood
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