Gov. Doug Ducey addresses the media on COVID-19 during a news conference in Phoenix on Nov. 18, 2020. Behind him is Dr. Cara Christ. Photo by Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic | Pool photo
Though all ballots have now been counted in the state, Gov. Doug Ducey wouldn’t acknowledge that Joe Biden won Arizona’s 11 electoral votes and he refused to reject the evidence-free claims of fraud being made about the outcome of the election here.
At a press conference Wednesday, Ducey said he had confidence in Arizona’s election system — but insisted that Biden’s victory in Arizona isn’t certain because there is still one lawsuit working its way through the court system, even though that lawsuit doesn’t challenge the election results.
Asked repeatedly about the baseless and largely debunked conspiracy theories alleging that fraud in Arizona and elsewhere cost President Donald Trump his re-election, Ducey said he hadn’t personally seen evidence of fraud. But he didn’t rule it out or condemn the groundless claims being made by other elected Republicans and prominent GOP officials in the state.
“Any widespread fraud or irregularity, that I have not seen. I’ve heard about it but I have not seen it,” the governor said.
President-elect Biden defeated Trump by about 10,500 votes in Arizona, making him the first Democrat to win the state since 1996 and only the second in the past 70 years. Though he acknowledged that Democrat Mark Kelly defeated Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, Ducey hasn’t recognized Biden as the winner in Arizona, or as the president-elect, as numerous media organizations and others have done.
Prominent Arizona Republicans like Congressmen Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, and state GOP chair Kelli Ward, along with some members of the legislature, have spread spurious and oftentimes completely debunked fraud theories. The two GOP members of the Pima County Board of Supervisors refused to certify the county’s election canvass over allegations elsewhere in the state.
And Trump has spread blatantly false claims on Twitter, alleging, for example, that Dominion Voting Systems machines that are used in 28 states — including in Maricopa County in Arizona — changed 2.7 million votes for him into votes for Biden.
But relatively few Republicans have publicly and explicitly rejected those claims.
Clint Hickman, the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, defended the county’s election in an open letter on Tuesday, saying the evidence is overwhelming that the vote was accurate and fair.
“More than 2 million ballots were cast in Maricopa County and there is no evidence of fraud or misconduct or malfunction. Board members listened to and considered many theories about the election results. We asked, and continue to ask critical questions of County staff and none of these theories have proven true or raised the possibility the outcome of the election would be different,” Hickman wrote.
And Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a Fox News interview last week that Biden appeared to have won Arizona and rejected claims of fraud. Ducey, in contrast, had been silent since the election, and his staff has refused to say whether he believed there had been fraud in Arizona.
Ducey said candidates are entitled to legal challenges in elections, and that litigation was working itself through the courts in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, though he said he’s not familiar with the specifics of those cases. And while he said Arizona elections are trustworthy, noting that he has repeatedly bragged about the way the state carries out its elections, he insisted that outstanding lawsuits must conclude before he makes any definitive statements about the results.
“There are questions and those questions should be answered. But I couldn’t have been more emphatic about how I think about Arizona elections and how we conduct them,” he said. “We can trust our elections here in Arizona and I’m going to respect the results of the election. But we are going to let the legal process play out.”
The Trump campaign dismissed its only legal challenge in Arizona last week. The only remaining litigation in the state is a lawsuit filed by the Arizona Republican Party which doesn’t challenge the actual results of the election.
That lawsuit alleges Maricopa County erred in the process it used for a limited hand count of ballots after the election. State law requires counties to audit ballots from 2% of precincts, but the state’s election procedures manual, which has the force of law, allows counties that use vote centers instead of precincts to instead audit based on those polling places, where any voter can cast a ballot, regardless of where he or she lives.
Ducey personally approved the election procedures manual, which was drafted by the Secretary of State’s Office, last year.
On Wednesday, a judge seemed skeptical of the AZGOP’s arguments during a hearing to decide whether the case should proceed.
The governor also ducked a question on whether his silence on the issue is contributing to uncertainty over the election results.
Protesters have gathered repeatedly since the election at the state Capitol and the Maricopa County Elections Department, insisting that the election in Arizona and other states was rigged and expressing confidence that Trump will ultimately be certified as the winner of the election once the alleged fraud is proven.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, chastised Ducey shortly before his press conference, alleging in a press release that his “deafening silence has contributed to the growing unrest” over false election fraud claims and calling on him to “stand up for the truth.”
“[T]here are those, including the president, members of Congress and other elected officials, who are perpetuating misinformation and are encouraging others to distrust the election results in a manner that violates the oath of office they took. It is well past time that they stop. Their words and actions have consequences,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs also said she and her family have received “ongoing and escalating threats of violence.”
Ducey vehemently condemned those threats.
“That’s unacceptable, completely unacceptable, and I denounce any threats of violence against anyone in elected office,” he said.
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