Abraham Hamadeh lawsuit will go to trial, request to inspect ballots approved
Abraham Hamadeh got the green light from a Mohave County Superior Court judge to go to trial over an election he says was compromised by misconduct.
Earlier this month, Republican Hamadeh filed a lawsuit alleging that his 511-vote loss to Democrat Kris Mayes in the race for Arizona attorney general was the result of election errors, including poll workers bungling Election Day voting in Maricopa County and improperly handled ballots during the verification process.
To prove his claims, Hamadeh requested permission to inspect ballots in Navajo, Maricopa and Pima counties. Judge Lee Jantzen approved that request and set a trial date for 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 23.
The lawsuit has been criticized by opponents for lacking any concrete evidence and while Jantzen agreed that his rulings must be tied to facts, he said Hamadeh should be given an opportunity to make his argument.
“Plaintiff has a high burden to meet in order to have an election overturned. The Court must make these determinations based on facts and not mere conclusions,” Jantzen wrote. “However, at this stage in the unique proceedings of an election contest, the Court finds the Plaintiff has the right to present its case and even gather additional information.”
To be successful, Hamadeh needs to establish that each claim of misconduct he pointed to in his lawsuit actually occurred and that all of it influenced the election enough to compromise the outcome of the race.
Hamadeh alleges that on-demand printer malfunctions in Maricopa County, coupled with poll workers who failed to check-out voters from sites experiencing issues, resulted in an unknown number of rejected ballots. The lawsuit also claims that as many as 1,942 provisional ballots were left uncounted in Maricopa County, despite the fact that the voters who filled them out were properly registered to vote and hadn’t previously cast a ballot. Finally, improperly adjudicated and duplicated ballots — both processes that seek to preserve the voter’s intent when a ballot becomes too mangled or illegible for the machines to read — resulted in incorrectly counted votes.
Opponents of the lawsuit have noted that each of these examples, even if true, don’t mean that intentional misconduct occurred, but both Hamadeh and Jantzen rebutted that misconduct doesn’t have to be intentional as long as it sufficiently affected the results of the election.
“Honest mistakes or mere omissions on the part of the election officers…even though gross, if not fraudulent, will not void an election, unless they affect the result, or at least render it uncertain,” Jantzen wrote.
Jantzen dismissed an argument in the lawsuit that the use of election documents other than the voter registration form, like early ballot affidavits from previous years, to verify signatures on early ballots cast in the November midterms led to illegally accepted votes. The Elections Procedures Manual, which includes guidelines on what documents election officials can use to verify early ballots, has been around since 2019, Jantzen said, and a complaint against election procedures must be brought long before the election itself is carried out.
Earlier today, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs filed a statement urging Jantzen to dismiss the lawsuit entirely, based on a ruling from Maricopa County Superior Judge Peter Thompson in a lawsuit from Kari Lake that said only intentional allegations of misconduct could proceed to trial. Because Hamadeh explicitly stated that he does not allege any fraud, the case should be thrown out of court, Hobbs said. Jantzen disagreed, saying that the two cases are too different to compare and Hamadeh’s claims of misconduct are still a valid starting point.
“This case is different…because the Plaintiff is not alleging political motives or fraud or personal agendas being pushed,” Jantzen wrote. “It is simply alleging misconduct by mistake, or omission by election officials, led to erroneous count of votes and which if true could have led to an uncertain result.”
Dan Barr, an attorney for Mayes, said that Hamadeh still has a long way to go to prove his case. No facts or specificity has been offered in the lawsuit or in an initial hearing on Monday.
“On Friday, Abe Hamadeh is going to have to come forward with real facts,” Barr said. “It’s not a Twitter feed, it’s not Fox News or some radio show. It’s a court of law and you have to come forward with admissible evidence and I’m confident that they don’t have any.”
On Twitter, Hamadeh celebrated the win, calling it a move toward securing integrity in an election system he says is rife with issues.
“Maricopa County’s failures on Election Day need to be investigated,” he wrote. “The court’s ruling is a small step toward restoring confidence in our electoral process. I am confident that had Maricopa County run a competent election we would not have to be in this litigation position.”
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.