PHOENIX — The latest lawsuit challenging the results of the presidential election in Arizona charges that Mark Zuckerberg and his money deliberately skewed the vote here for Joe Biden.
Attorney David Spilsbury points out that the Center for Tech and Civic Life gave out grants to local entities to help run this year's election. That organization says it got $250 million from the Facebook billionaire with the goal of making elections safe this year in the face of the pandemic with things like drive-up voting and drop boxes.
But Spilsbury, in legal papers filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, said he sees something nefarious in all that.
He contends that the whole purpose was to create a "two-tiered treatment of the American voter," putting funds into "progressive strongholds" to turn out more voters. Other places, Spilsbury said, did not have the same opportunity.
"The strategy worked," he said.
Spilsbury said Democrat Joe Biden got more than 300,000 votes in Maricopa County than Hillary Clinton got in 2016. By contrast, he said, President Trump gained only about 150,000 votes.
"This type of disparate impact by government officials in Maricopa County clearly favored urban progressive voters, to the detriment of non-urban, non-progressive voters," Spilsbury charged.
And Spilsbury said that this was all part of an effort by private groups, along with state and local election officials, "to systematically eviscerate Arizona's election law" through plans to hide counting procedures and find ways to not count votes for the president.
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said he could not comment on the litigation which actually names Gov. Doug Ducey and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as defendants. But Fontes, who lost his bid for reelection, said if his county really were as liberal as Spilsbury suggests "I'd still have a job."
And it wasn't just Maricopa County that got grants. The organization says it also provided funds to Apache, Coconino, Graham, La Paz, Navajo, Pima, Pinal and Yuma counties in Arizona, with more than 2,500 recipients across the country.
The new filing comes as U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa is set to hear arguments Tuesday in her court making separate claims about why she should order the election results voided.
Much of that case is based on the contention that the Dominion Software voting machines were deliberately set up in a way to deliver votes for Biden. And there also are claims, repeated in Spilsbury's state court complaint, that hundreds of thousands of early ballots were sent to people who never requested them.
And the Arizona Supreme Court is separately reviewing a bid by state GOP Chair Kelli Ward to overturn a ruling last week by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah throwing out her lawsuit based on different theories about why the election results are unreliable.
One thing the judges in all the cases need to consider is how quickly they need to act.
Federal law says all election challenges are supposed to be resolved by Tuesday. But Jack Wilenchik, who is representing Ward, told the Supreme Court on Monday to ignore the deadline as an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of states to decide their own election matters.
As a practical matter, though, not everything will be resolved by the end of the day on Tuesday: Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Palmer has scheduled a Wednesday hearing on the newest lawsuit, the one filed by Spilsbury with the allegations about Zuckerberg.
More problematic for challengers is that the electors chosen by voters — the ones pledged to Biden — are supposed to cast their ballots this coming Monday.
Each of the three pending lawsuits seeks a court order to prevent that from happening, at least until the legal issues are resolved, if not permanently, a move that could allow the Republican-controlled legislature to decide who gets Arizona's 11 electoral votes. There is no guarantee that any judge will agree to that.
But Wilenchik also contends that the upcoming Monday deadline, too, is no more enforceable.
"The only real deadline is Jan. 6," he said, the date set out in the U.S. Constitution when Congress counts the electoral votes from each state and declares the winner.
Four prior lawsuits about the conduct of the election have already been dismissed. Each raised different issues ranging from about oversight of the counting process to the use of Sharpies on ballots at polling places.
That, however, has not stopped the filing of the three new ones.
There are some common threads to each of them dealing with the handling of absentee ballots.
Ward, for example, charged that signatures on envelopes were not properly verified. But testimony at trial showed a review of a random sample turned up no evidence of forgery.
What's new in the Spilsbury claim is the contention that the $3 million grant to Maricopa County by the Center for Tech and Civic Life was used to "pay for and help design the plan to remove poll watchers from one political party so that the critical responsibility of determining the validity of the ballot and validity of the count could be conducted without oversight."
He also contends it funded a plan to ensure that illegally counted ballots from "progressive strongholds" would be "cured" of defects while ballots from other areas would be "spoiled" and not counted. And he said that counting centers were consolidated in the urban core "to facilitate the movement of hundreds of thousands of questionable ballots in secrecy without legally required bipartisan observation."
Nothing in the lawsuit provides specifics.
But some of what he is alleging likely did occur, like providing mobile ballot pickup units, paying election judges and poll workers, and establishing drop boxes and satellite offices. In fact, a copy of the approved grant spells out that the county would use the funds to establish drive-through voting, recruit and train poll workers, renting polling places and non-partisan voter education.
Spilsbury declined to say how those activities were illegal. But he did say that taking money from CTCL, funded by "Zuckerberg, a well-known Democratic activist and partisan," violates election law.
"These baseless charges have already been rejected in multiple states," a representative of CTCL said in a prepared response. "As a non-partisan organization backed by Democrats, Republicans and non-partisan officials, we are confident that these frivolous charges are without merit."
Zuckerberg and CTCL aside, Spilsbury is making other claims based on depositions by people who say that they analyzed voting records and made phone calls to voters.
They contend that 44.2% of the early ballots that went out were not actually requested. And they said that more than 17% of those who were listed as not returning their early ballot "did in fact mail back an absentee ballot to the clerk's office."
There also are claims that at least 5,726 people who cast early votes were not residents of the state when they voted.
All totaled, Spilsbury told the court, there were 371,498 ballot errors, nearly 11% of all the votes cast.
But Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Tom Liddy, who has seen the same claims in the federal court lawsuit, said none of this is evidence. He said nowhere does any challenger identify anyone who actually committed fraud.
"The allegations merely assert that certain ballots could have been filled out by anyone and then submitted in the name of another voter," Liddy wrote.
Similarly, he said, claims about these ballots being shifted by someone to Biden or that Trump ballots were lost or destroyed is speculation.