On May 16, the Mohave County Superior Court will hear oral arguments on a motion for a new trial filed by former Arizona attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and the Republican National Committee (RNC) over last year’s attorney general election. In their filing, Hamadeh and the RNC are arguing that not all legal votes have been counted in the former’s race against now-Democrat Attorney General Kris Mayes and that once they are, the results will show Hamadeh as the legitimate winner.
“I am trying to restore not just election integrity, [but also the belief] that there’s a justice system that can remedy bad [elections],” Hamadeh told The Federalist.
Unlike most states that witnessed efficient election administration during the 2022 midterms, Arizona was marred by chaos and incompetence. In Maricopa County — which is home to almost 62 percent of Arizona’s 7.2 million people — poll workers at roughly 30 percent of the county’s voting centers reported that their respective vote tabulation machines were rejecting voters’ ballots, resulting in long wait times and widespread confusion among voters and election workers alike.
After the election, Hamadeh and the RNC filed a lawsuit alleging numerous counts of improper activity by Arizona election officials, including “wrongful disqualification of provisional and early ballots,” “exclusion of provisional voters,” and “inaccurate ballot duplications.” The suit was ultimately struck down in December by Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen, who ruled that Hamadeh’s team didn’t meet “the burden” of proof with respect to his claims.
While the initial results of the AG’s race showed Mayes defeating Hamadeh by 511 votes, an automatic recount found hundreds of uncounted votes in Pinal County that revealed Mayes’ lead to be much smaller, at 280 votes. Hamadeh and the RNC promptly filed their motion for a new trial in response to the revelations.
What Hamadeh and the RNC Claim
At the core of Hamadeh and the RNC’s motion for retrial is the assertion that since the certification of the attorney general race, “[t]here is new and compelling information that not all legal votes were counted.” The legal filing highlights the state’s election recount, specifically the uncounted and miscounted votes discovered in Pinal County.
According to Jennifer Wright, Arizona’s former assistant attorney general who is now working with Hamadeh’s legal team, part of the reason Mayes’ lead over Hamadeh shrunk after the recount was due to dozens of “undervotes” in Pinal County that were not initially tabulated. For context, an undervote occurs when the “number of choices selected by a voter in an election is less than the maximum number allowed for that election.” In the case of Pinal, only after officials conducted a physical audit of the aforementioned ballots and reconciled them with the machine results were such discrepancies discovered.
Wright went on to contend that then-Democrat Secretary of State and now-Gov. Katie Hobbs “was aware” of the inconsistencies in Pinal County at the time of Hamadeh’s December trial, but did not inform the Mohave County Superior Court of the locality’s findings. “Given the fact that she was supposed to have been a neutral party, she should have alerted the court. … [But] the case was dismissed on Dec. 23 because Secretary Hobbs’ counsel did not reveal this information to the court,” Wright said.
At the time of Hamadeh’s December trial, Wright was working for then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich and was not a member of the Republican candidate’s legal team.
Hamadeh and the RNC echo Wright’s claim in their suit, asserting that Hobbs “knew about these material discrepancies no later than December 21 — eight days before she made the results available to Contestants and the public” (emphasis in the original). Votebeat Arizona, a local news outlet, seemingly confirmed this assertion last week, reporting that county officials “first told [Hobbs’] office about errors in the results on Dec. 7 — more than two weeks after the county certified its election.”
When pressed by the outlet on why Hobbs refused to share such information in court proceedings over the election results, a representative for the governor claimed it was due to an alleged “gag order.”
In addition to undervotes, Hamadeh and the RNC are also contesting issues related to provisional ballots, which are used to record votes when it remains uncertain whether a person is eligible to vote. According to Wright, Hamadeh’s legal team filed a public records request with Maricopa County related to these ballots late last year, which the locality responded to on Dec. 31. While Hamadeh’s team wasn’t provided the ballots themselves, they were given data that allowed them to know which voters cast provisional ballots. They do not, however, possess information related to whom each voter cast his or her ballot for.
Upon analyzing the acquired data, Hamadeh’s team “determined that the [rejection of] provisional ballots [was] not following the normal pattern” seen in elections, according to Wright.
“Typically, provisional ballots are ones that are cast by people who have no voting history. They’ve never voted in Arizona. They don’t realize that they were supposed to register by a certain date,” Wright said. But Hamadeh’s legal team found “hundreds in Maricopa County … that had a voting history, yet their ballot was rejected as being not registered.”
Hamadeh expanded on this issue to The Federalist, claiming that when reviewing the data, his legal team found “the party registration of these people” to be “two to one, sometimes three to one,” with more Republicans.
“What we’re discovering is not just the amount of Republicans [marked as having voted provisionally], [but how] many of these voters are high propensity voters,” Hamadeh said. “Some of them voted in the 2022 primaries, some of them voted in 2020, some of them in 2018. So, there’s a lot of these voters who, for some reason, got voted provisionally.”
An Arizona Free News analysis published last month contends there are roughly 8,000 provisional ballots outstanding.
The Road Ahead
While the outcome of Hamadeh’s election challenge remains uncertain, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for a court to determine a different winner months after an election. During Arizona’s 1916 gubernatorial race, Republican Thomas E. Campbell was initially declared the winner, appearing to have won by 30 votes over Democrat George W.P. Hunt. While Campbell would go on to serve as governor for nearly a year, Arizona’s courts ultimately settled a legal dispute over a “quirk of split-ticket ballots” and declared Hunt the winner.
When asked about his prospects in Arizona’s judicial system, Hamadeh expressed optimism that his team will eventually emerge victorious and blasted Democrats for their hypocrisy when it comes to their mantra of “count every vote.”
“In our lawsuit, we’re taking the position of Democrats, which is ‘count every vote’ and talking about voter disenfranchisement, and the Democrats are the ones screaming about [how] every single vote was counted,” Hamadeh said. “We’re not alleging fraud in our case. … We’re simply saying that they need to count these legal votes, and I think for courts, it’s a lot easier to count votes than to try to remove votes. And that’s why I think we’re going to be a lot more successful because we are using the Democrat playbook.”