Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria. Photo by Wissam Melhem | Cronkite News
Republican U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko never raised concerns about a judicially imposed extension of Arizona’s voter registration deadline until they cited it as the rationale for rejecting their state’s electoral votes long after the fact.
And in doing so, they also ignored that their fellow Republicans supported a federal court’s decision to let thousands of newly registered people vote on Nov. 3.
Three Republican members of Arizona’s congressional delegation — Biggs, Lesko and Paul Gosar — voted against certifying the 11 electoral votes their state cast for Joe Biden following the general election. While Gosar recited a litany of false and baseless claims to justify his rejection of Arizona voters’ decision, Biggs and Lesko said they were opposing certification because of an October judicial ruling that extended the state’s voter registration deadline for 10 days.
U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan ordered the Oct. 5 deadline extended for nearly three weeks, ruling that the COVID-19 pandemic had hindered the voter registration efforts of two advocacy groups. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, but allowed the roughly 35,000 people who registered during that period to vote in the Nov. 3 election.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, along with Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, all of whom intervened in the case, agreed that those people should be permitted to cast ballots on Nov. 3.
Despite their later insistence that the extended deadline cast doubt on the election, Biggs and Lesko were completely silent at the time. Neither Republican asked the 9th Circuit to bar those voters from casting ballots, nor did they allege at the time that the post-deadline registrations would cast doubt on the upcoming election. Biggs and Lesko issued no press releases and sent no tweets, going more than two months without addressing the issue.
Only when the U.S. House of Representatives voted on whether to certify Arizona’s electoral votes did Biggs and Lesko bring the voter registration issue to the fore. Biggs and Lesko, along with Gosar, were among the 121 House Republicans who voted to reject Arizona’s electoral votes, even after a violent mob demanding that Congress overturn the election results and install Trump for another term stormed the Capitol, forcing lawmakers into hiding and disrupting the proceedings for hours.
On Jan. 6, just hours after the mob of rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of Biden’s win, Biggs explained that he was voting to reject his home state’s electors because the 9th Circuit allowed “tens of thousands of voters to unlawfully cast votes.”
“In going around the deadline set by the legislature, the court ignored the Arizona legislature’s obligation and right to direct the manner for choosing presidential electors, as set forth in Article II, Section I,” Biggs said, referring to provision in the U.S. Constitution authorizing state legislatures to determine how electors are appointed.
And Lesko said in a press release that “Arizona violated state law, and thus the United States Constitution, as detailed in the opinion from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In line with upholding my oath to follow the U.S. Constitution, I voted to agree with the objection to Arizona’s electors.”
Biggs and Lesko’s offices refused to comment on the matter, ignoring multiple requests from Arizona Mirror. They would not say why the two members of Congress were silent on the voter registration issue for so long, whether they would have voted against certification for the same reason if Trump had won Arizona, or why they haven’t criticized fellow Republicans who supported the decision to allow the newly registered voters to participate in the November election.
The fact that the voters who registered during the temporarily extended deadline were permitted to vote on Nov. 3 could be viewed as an advantage for the GOP, given that more Republicans than Democrats registered during that period. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, 10,922 voters registered as Republicans during that time, compared to 8,292 Democrats, 15,422 independents and 498 Libertarians.
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