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Maricopa County to respond to AG next week, plans to certify election on time

Maricopa County to respond to AG next week, plans to certify election on time

  • Voters wait in line at a Mesa polling location on Nov. 8, 2022.
    Jerod MacDonald-Evoy/Arizona MirrorVoters wait in line at a Mesa polling location on Nov. 8, 2022.

Maricopa County will respond Monday to a letter from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office demanding details on Election Day problems, but county officials “will not be distracted from their statutory duty to prepare for the canvass,” an attorney for the county told the Arizona Mirror. 

To comply with state law, the county must canvass and certify the election by Monday, the 20th day after the election. While some counties have at least temporarily delayed their canvasses, the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office told the Mirror that it would take legal action against counties that fail to meet the deadline. 

Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Tom Liddy said in an email that, despite the attorney general’s demands for answers ahead of the county’s certification deadline, “the AG does not have a duty to tell any county anything about the election.”

The Attorney General’s Office did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. 

The letter, which Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright sent to Maricopa County on Saturday, calls for detailed explanations of how issues with on-demand ballot printers at 60 of the county’s 223 voting centers arose and how they were remedied. The issues, which made some ballots unreadable by the tabulation machines at the vote centers, caused frustration and significant delays for some voters.

But all voters who were having problems were able to have their ballots tabulated if they left them at the polling site in a secured box so they could be transported to elections headquarters and counted at a later date. 

Several Republican campaigns urged voters who experienced issues in Maricopa County on Election Day to report those issues to the attorney general. 

“These complaints go beyond pure speculation, but include first-hand witness accounts that raise concerns regarding Maricopa’s lawful compliance with Arizona election law,” Wright wrote in the letter. 

Voters whose ballots couldn’t be read by vote center tabulation machines were given the option of instead putting their ballot in “door 3” to be tabulated later at the county’s central tabulation center. Those voters could also spoil their ballot and fill out a new one or check out of that voting center and go to a different one. 

The AG also asked for explanations from the county about training for the voter check out process, since some voters were not properly checked out of their original voting locations and subsequently had to cast provisional ballots at the second voting location, since check-in records showed that they had already voted. Votebeat reported that 146 voters who didn’t want to use box 3 tried to cast ballots at another polling location without first canceling their original ballot.

The campaigns of Republican candidates who lost their elections, including Kari Lake and Mark Finchem, claim that these issues disproportionately disenfranchised Republican voters, since they were more likely to vote in-person on Election Day. Republicans employed a strategy in 2022 that relied on voters showing up at the polls instead of casting early ballots, as they have done in Arizona for 30 years.

But so far, out of dozens of videos from voters outlining problems they experienced on Nov. 8 reviewed by the Mirror, none claimed that they were denied the right to vote. 

Lake, who lost the race for governor to Democrat Katie Hobbs but has not conceded, thanked the Attorney General’s Office for its inquiry.

“The 2022 general election in Arizona was botched and broken beyond repair,” Lake said in a statement. “Thankfully the attorney general’s office is demanding answers from Maricopa County.” 

She added that “tens of thousands” of voters had reached out to her about the voting issues and said that Attorney General Mark Brnovich is taking steps to “remedy this assault on our democracy.” 

Finchem, who lost the race for Arizona secretary of state to Democrat Adrian Fontes, has also refused to concede and has repeatedly called for the results of the election to be thrown out to be replaced by a totally new midterm election. 

Liddy confirmed to the Mirror that throwing out the results of an election and holding a new one was not possible under Arizona law. 

Lake has hinted that she is considering litigation to challenge the results of the election.

“Attorneys are working diligently to gather information, whistleblowers ARE coming forward and the curtain is being lifted,” Lake said in the statement. “Whether done accidentally or intentionally it is clear that this Election was [a] debacle that destroyed any trust in our elections.” 

Lake added that she believes Republicans were punished for voting in person on Election Day, as many leaders encouraged them to do. While many Republicans have claimed that voting centers in more conservative areas were more likely to have printer issues, an investigation by The Washington Post found that was not true. 

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates said in a statement that the county began working on a response to the attorney general’s letter the day after it was received. 

“We look forward to answering the AG’s questions with transparency as we have done throughout this election,” he said in the statement.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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