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Arizona Judge Expresses Skepticism of GOP Maricopa Recount Suit

Nov. 19, 2020, 12:56 AM

An Arizona judge expressed skepticism about a Republican lawsuit seeking to force the state’s biggest county to re-do a hand recount of some ballots despite having no evidence of voter fraud or software errors.

The Arizona Republican Party sued Nov. 12 claiming Maricopa County’s state-mandated hand count of a sample of ballots -- to audit voting machine accuracy -- must be repeated because officials sampled votes from 2% of polling places, called vote centers, instead of 2% of precincts.

Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix, favored President-elect Joe Biden in the election, helping make him the presumptive winner of the state over President Donald Trump by more than 10,000 votes.

Judge John Hannah said at a Wednesday hearing in Phoenix that he was “having a hard time” understanding why the GOP waited so long to challenge the audit details given that they had a representative involved with the process more than two weeks before the election, during early voting.

“This audit process effectively started before the election,” Hannah said. “They waited until after the election, until they knew how the vote had apparently come out before they filed” the lawsuit.

Close Deadline

All Arizona counties need to report their results in time for the state to certify the election by Nov. 30, and Democrats argue the suit intentionally puts that deadline at risk.

Hannah said he’d issue a ruling as soon as Thursday morning.

The Arizona Democratic Party, which intervened in the suit, said in a motion to dismiss the case that the county’s audit has already been completed and that it found “zero discrepancies from the machine tabulated count.”

Sarah Gonski, a lawyer for the the Democrats, told the judge that Republicans had failed to explain why they “suddenly” found the execution of a standard election procedure “to be an illicit exercise of power,” particularly when they knew about it months ago and there’s “no allegation of any irregularities.”

Irregularities and Technicalities

The post-election suit is one of several filed in swing states by Republicans and the Trump campaign that seek to overturn Biden’s victory. While Trump continues to make unsubstantiated claims of a massive ballot-fraud conspiracy by Democrats, GOP lawsuits are usually more mundane, including claims based on comparatively minor irregularities and technicalities.

Democrats argue neither Trump nor the Republicans have evidence of fraud, and none is alleged in the Arizona suit.

The state GOP said in the complaint that Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, incorrectly advised counties to sample voting centers rather than precincts even though state law uses the word “precincts.” The massive county that encompasses Phoenix has 175 vote centers compared to 748 precincts, the suit says. Arizona only used vote centers for the 2020 election due to the coronavirus.

At the hearing, GOP attorney John Wilenchik said it doesn’t matter if the county’s original audit didn’t find anything wrong because doing it again “makes sure there’s no fraud.”

“This is about ensuring integrity,” he said. “You gotta do them because it could turn up something.”

To contact the reporter on this story:
Erik Larson in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Glovin at

Anthony Lin, Steve Stroth

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.