Arizona Supreme Court rejects state GOP chief’s lawsuit to overturn Biden’s win

By: - December 8, 2020 9:24 pm

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The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Arizona, unanimously rejecting state GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s attempt to overturn the election results and decree President Donald Trump as the winner of the state’s 11 electoral votes.

Ward claimed without evidence that mistakes in the verification of signatures on early ballots and in the duplication of ballots that couldn’t be read by Maricopa County’s tabulation machines cost Trump the election in Arizona. Biden won the state by about 10,500 votes.

After a trial court judge allowed Ward to inspect 100 duplicated ballots and 100 early ballot envelopes, her attorney found two ballots with duplication errors that took votes from Trump. A subsequent review of another 1,526 ballots found seven more mistakes: five that took votes from Trump and two from Biden.

The Supreme Court found the error rate to be “statistically negligible.” Based on the error rates from that limited examination, Trump could have lost as many as 153 votes, far from enough to affect the election, Chief Justice Robert Brutinel wrote in the court’s order on Tuesday evening.

Brutinel said Ward failed to show evidence of misconduct, illegal votes or an erroneous count of votes, “let alone establish any degree of fraud or a sufficient error rate that would undermine the certainty of the election results” and warrant overturning an election. The ruling echoed Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner’s finding that there was “no misconduct, no fraud, and no effect on the outcome of the election.”

The chief justice also noted that Ward did not allege any violations of state law or of Arizona’s Election Procedures Manual, which carries the force of state law. And though several witnesses provided credible testimony that they witnessed errors in the ballot duplication process, they were small in number and the ones that were brought to the attention of election officials at the time were corrected, Brutinel wrote.

“Elections will not be held invalid for mere irregularities unless it can be shown that the result has been affected by such irregularity,” Brutinel wrote. “The validity of an election is not voided by honest mistakes or omissions unless they affect the result, or at least render it uncertain.”

The court also found that Warner was right to deny Ward’s request to examine more ballots in an attempt to find more mistakes. Ward’s initial complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court claimed misconduct or errors may have cost Trump the election in Arizona, but she presented no evidence to back up that claim, and instead asked the court to allow her to investigate ballots in order to find that evidence.

In a press statement issued by the Arizona Republican Party, Ward called the court’s ruling disappointing.

“It is disappointing that the Court would not permit us to look behind closed doors to review additional material for similar mistakes, of which we were in a short time able to identify statistically significant evidence of human error,” Ward said of the errors, which two courts have found to be statistically insignificant.

Ward also spuriously claimed that “we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election,” ignoring that two courts found that Trump likely would have only gained between 103 and 153 additional votes from a continued examination of duplicated ballots, far too few to erase Biden’s lead of 10,457 votes.

Ward did get one win out of the Supreme Court’s ruling: The justices denied Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’s request for attorney fees.

The case was one of six unsuccessful Republican challenges to Arizona’s presidential elections, four of which have now been rejected by the courts and two of which were voluntarily dismissed by the attorneys who filed them. 

Two of those cases were brought by Ward and the Arizona GOP. In their first lawsuit over the election, the Arizona Republican Party alleged procedural errors in Maricopa County’s post-election audit of a limited number of ballots. A Superior Court judge rejected the challenge and invited Hobbs to seek attorney fees. A lawyer for Hobbs filed a formal request for $18,237 in attorney fees on Monday.

A federal judge is expected to rule Wednesday on whether to dismiss a seventh lawsuit, brought by an out-of-state attorney who is an ally of the president, alleging — without evidence — that Arizona’s election was rigged through massive fraud.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”