Abraham Hamadeh won’t be granted a third try at overturning his 2022 loss, after a Mohave County judge ruled that he lacks both the evidence and legal basis to do so.
Hamadeh, the Republican nominee for attorney general, narrowly failed to capture the office, losing by a mere 280 votes. Spurred by conservative outrage over Election Day issues in Maricopa County, Hamadeh immediately went to court to contest the race, claiming his loss was the result of election misconduct and erroneously rejected ballots. His first challenge was thrown out for violating the timelines governing election contests and a second attempt filed shortly after, which did go to trial, was ultimately rejected for failing to meet the burden of proof.
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When the automatic statewide recount of his race identified discrepancies that shrank Democrat Kris Mayes’ lead over Hamadeh — up until then thought to be 511 votes — the Republican candidate launched a third challenge, arguing that the new information warranted another trial. The vast majority of the votes that narrowed the contest came from Pinal County, where elections officials discovered hundreds of ballots that were mistakenly not counted after the election.
Time and ballot inspection constraints disqualify request
Election contests, Jantzen said, are by nature swiftly dealt with, and the laws governing them don’t allow for drawn out deliberation. State law mandates that lawsuits challenging the outcome of an election be filed within five days of the statewide canvass, that a trial must begin no later than 15 days afterward and that the judge is directed to make a decision immediately — all of which happened during Hamadeh’s second lawsuit.
Jantzen also rejected Hamadeh’s request to inspect more ballots to make his case. At a pre-trial hearing in May, attorneys for Hamadeh argued that more than 1,000 provisional ballots were incorrectly thrown out by Maricopa County election officials, including hundreds of votes belonging to residents whose voter registrations were erroneously filed in a different county due to alleged issues with ServiceArizona, the Arizona Department of Transportation’s self-service website, and Arizona’s voter registration database.
No proof was offered, however, and attorneys lobbied for permission to search for evidence via more ballot inspections. Such permission, Jantzen said, would be out of line with what state law allows, especially after a limited inspection was granted during Hamadeh’s second challenge, resulting in no satisfactory proof of his claims.
“Plaintiff was alleging issues with provisional ballots from the opening of this case but provided no significant evidence of specific problems at the trial on the merits,” Jantzen wrote. “The Plaintiff is now requesting additional discovery to investigate if a problem exists with provisional ballots. There is only limited discovery allowed in elections contests.”
No new information means no new trial
The only other avenue for greenlighting a new trial would be under the auspices of a procedural rule, but Jantzen said Hamadeh’s suit doesn’t meet that standard, either. Under the Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 59, a new trial can be awarded if, among other reasons, new information came to light that was available at the time of the previous trial but couldn’t be acquired through due diligence and would have made a difference in the election’s outcome.
Hamadeh’s third challenge relied heavily on Rule 59, arguing that the discrepancies identified during the statewide recount, coupled with a list of provisional voters requested from Maricopa County that was delivered after the December trial, warranted a second trial.
Attorneys for Mayes rebutted, saying that the public records request filed in Maricopa County was submitted late, and Hamadeh’s campaign knew since at least November 2022, during his first challenge, that they’d need more information on issues with provisional ballots to bolster their arguments. Jantzen appeared to agree with that assessment.
“The evidence of potential problems with provisional ballots and people with multiple addresses that was proffered at the time of oral argument was information that was discoverable in November and December with sufficient diligence,” he wrote.
Jantzen rejected Hamadeh’s argument that the discrepancy found in Pinal County necessarily meant discrepancies in other counties. The same recount that identified the problem in Pinal County rectified the final tally and didn’t identify issues anywhere else. The final count still affirmed Mayes’ win.
“The record reflects those errors were corrected in the recount and those 63 votes were counted,” Jantzen wrote. “(Hamadeh) speculates that this error was repeated in other counties but has no proof.”
Appeal on the horizon
Despite shooting down the request, Jantzen left the door open for an appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.
“The Plaintiff can appeal the decision made in this Court…but a new trial with extended discovery is not available under the road map laid out by the Legislature,” he wrote.
In a statement released on social media shortly after Jantzen’s dismissal was announced last week, Hamadeh reiterated his belief that he is the lawful winner of the attorney general’s race.
“The contest was not as close as it stands now. If all legal votes are counted, I win this race for attorney general,” he wrote.
And on Monday, Hamadeh vowed to continue his legal battle.
“The court’s ruling is an invitation to an appeal, and we will do just that,” he tweeted.
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