Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich demands answers from Maricopa County on Election Day printer issues
A four-page document, released Saturday on Brnovich’s office letterhead, includes criticism of the county election administration, but no findings that would challenge the result. Republican candidates have lost the state’s most critical contests, including those for senator and governor.
As Election Day began, printers at 70 of the county’s 223 polling places produced ballots with ink too light to be read by vote-counting machines, county officials said. This required voters to line up, drive to another location, or drop their ballots into secure boxes that were moved to downtown Phoenix and counted there.
County leaders have yet to explain what caused the problems, saying they will undertake a full review once the ballots are compiled. But they maintain that no one was denied the right to vote. An Arizona judge came to the same conclusion when rejecting a request by Republicans to extend voting hours on Election Day in light of mechanical errors.
But Election Day issues, now highlighted by the state’s top law enforcement official, are likely to fuel Republican efforts to challenge the election result, particularly the razor-thin margin in the race for the attorney general, according to top lawyers associated with both sides, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to share candid assessments of an ongoing legal case. Democrats say they think the claims will lack merit.
In the race for attorney general, which appears destined for a recount, Democrat Kris Mayes edged Republican challenger Abe Hamadeh by just 850 votes on Sunday. Hamadeh has promised to “lock up” those involved in the 2020 election. His campaign has been considering his legal options in coordination with National Republicans and Kari Lake advisers, according to people familiar with the matter. Lake, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, was expected to have lost her race last Monday and was more than 17,000 votes behind on Sunday.
Lake refused to concede, citing widespread print issues to claim his supporters were “disenfranchised.” His campaign has released video testimonials from supporters who describe encountering the problems, although some conclude by saying they were able to vote.
A Washington Post analysis found that the polling places affected by the issues did not massively bias Republicans. The analysis found that the share of Registered Republicans in the affected precincts, about 37%, is virtually the same as the share of Registered Republicans in the county, which is 35%.
Now, an Election Integrity Unit within Brnovich’s office has weighed in. The beleaguered unit, created by Republican lawmakers after the 2018 midterm elections won top-to-bottom victories for Democrats, has been criticized by election deniers and the political right more broadly for failing to shine a light. enough fraud, and from the left for using public resources to stoke disinformation about the vote.
In Saturday’s letter, an assistant state attorney general who leads the unit wrote that it had “received hundreds of complaints since Election Day regarding the administration of the 2020 general election in Maricopa County “.
The letter is addressed to Tom Liddy, the county’s civil litigation manager. He is asking for a report detailing the difficulties encountered with the printers, including which voting sites were affected and how county officials determined that printer configuration settings were causing the ink issues. It asks for a “full log of all changes” made to the settings.
Liddy declined to discuss the letter on Sunday, saying he needed to meet with county officials overseeing the election.
“We in Maricopa County are still awaiting the Attorney General’s full report on his ongoing investigation into the 2020 election,” Liddy said in a brief phone interview. “I’m a bit surprised that he’s preparing to start one in 2022 when he hasn’t finished the first yet, but I wish him the best of luck.”
Bill Gates, the Republican chairman of the county board, declined to comment.
The attorney general’s office also asks in the letter for information about people who may have failed to properly verify a voting center after encountering the problems, potentially preventing them from voting elsewhere. And the letter raises concerns that ballots cast into the secure ballot boxes, known as ‘Gate 3’, may have been mixed with other ballots, which the letter describes as a breach. statutory guidelines.
County officials acknowledged isolated incidents of different batches of combined ballots, but said the protocols, run with observers from both political parties present, include checking the total number of ballots against records in polling places.
The letter requests a response by Nov. 28, the deadline for the county to certify the election results. State certification is scheduled for December 5.
The assistant attorney general who signed the letter is Jennifer Wright, an attorney whose bid for mayor of Phoenix in 2011 was backed by Tea Party activists. From 2010 to 2014, Wright co-chaired Verify the Vote Arizona and worked closely with True the Vote, a Texas-based organization that has made unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud rampant across the country.
Brnovich, the attorney general, affirmed the legitimacy of the 2020 election despite pressure from then-President Donald Trump to side with Trump’s false allegations of widespread voter fraud. But as a failed candidate in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate this year, Brnovich pointed to his office’s work on election integrity and said it raises “serious concerns.” His office has prosecuted about 20 voter fraud cases over the past three years in a state of more than 4 million voters.
Days before the November election, Brnovich made his most blunt comments yet about candidates who deny Trump’s loss, calling them “clowns” engaged in a “giant scam.” Last week, county leaders approved the pursuit of a lawsuit against Brnovich’s office for its alleged failure to produce public documents resulting from the state’s investigation into them.
In the days following the Nov. 8 midterm elections, Republicans remained vague about possible litigation.
A legal expert said that even if Republicans tried to use Brnovich’s letter to bolster their efforts to challenge the result of close races, it should have no implications for the approval of the results.
“It’s legally nothing,” said Tom Irvine, a now-retired attorney with four decades of election law experience who represented Maricopa County in the 1990s and 2000s.
“There is no evidence that anyone was disadvantaged,” said Irvine, a Democrat.