Kelli Ward

Kelli Ward

 
 

PHOENIX — The head of the Arizona Republican Party is moving to have a court declare that the election results that gave the state’s 11 electoral votes to Joe Biden is void, potentially paving the way for the Republican-controlled legislature to give them to Donald Trump.

Legal papers filed late Wednesday on behalf of Kelli Ward claim that the system used in Arizona to check signatures on mail-in ballots lacks sufficient safeguards to ensure they actually came from registered voters. Her attorney, Jack Wilenchik, said the legally required observers were unable to see the process from where they were placed.

Ward also contends the process for dealing with damaged ballots did not result in them being accurately recorded.

She most immediately wants a court to order production of a reasonable sampling of the signatures on the ballot envelopes so they can be compared to signatures on file. Ward wants to compare those damaged ballots with the duplicates that were created by election workers to allow them to be scanned.

A hearing is set for Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court.

The real goal is to have the court set aside the results of the election.

That can happen in two ways.

One would be for a judge to conclude that, given the problems cited on matching signatures on ballot envelopes with signatures on file, “the result of the election is fundamentally unknown.’’ That, according to the lawsuit, would require voiding the election.

That would not mean giving the election to Trump. That’s because there is no way of knowing whether the people whose signatures did not match — and who the lawsuit claims should never have been allowed to vote — actually cast votes for Trump, as the ballots were long ago separated from those envelopes.

What could happen is the Republican-controlled legislature could exercise its constitutional authority to make the final decision of declaring which slate of electors actually won: those pledged to Biden or those pledged to Trump.

There’s a different scenario if a judge, after reviewing the evidence of how damaged ballots were handled, concludes that votes that should have been for Trump were instead given to Biden. That, Wilenchik said, would permit the judge to declare the Trump-pledged electors got more votes than those pledged to Biden, meaning they are the ones who cast the state’s 11 electoral votes.

But time is running out for Ward and the state GOP to come up with the evidence to reverse the election results.

Federal law requires all challenges and recounts related to presidential elections be resolved no later than Dec. 8. The Electoral College vote is six days later.

There was no immediate response from attorneys for the Arizona Democratic Party who presumably would move to keep the 11 electors pledged to Biden. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs called the move “just the latest in a series of frivolous lawsuits’’ and “nothing but a last-ditch effort to undermine the credibility of the election.’’

Prior litigation here sought to show that election procedures were not followed or that counting machines did not properly record votes. All have been dismissed after judges said challengers failed to prove their claims.

A big part of the suit relates to a central theme of the Trump campaign: The process for mail-in votes used in Arizona and elsewhere is inherently flawed.

“While Arizona has been using mail-in voting since 1992, the process has comparatively few safeguards to ensure the integrity of mail-in ballots and to protect against mistake or fraud,’’ Wilenchik wrote.

He pointed out that someone who wants to vote in person must provide either a photo ID or two forms of recognized identification.

By contrast, Wilenchik said, the process for mail-in votes involves someone manually checking the signature on the outside of the envelope to see how it compared with any scanned signatures on file. He said the workers doing that job typically have fewer than six hours of training.

“Further, in Arizona, copies of a registered voter’s scanned signature are publicly available from the Department of Motor Vehicles, if they have a driver’s license, among other places, making a voter’s signature relatively easy to reproduce,’’ Wilenchik said. He said county workers make these decisions in “a manner of seconds.’’

Doug Nick, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said there’s no basis for that allegation.

“Personally identifiable information of this kind is protected under federal and state privacy law,’’ he said.

Wilenchik acknowledged that when a worker questions a signature, a bipartisan team reviews it to determine if it actually is valid.

“However, if a county worker does not question a signature, then there is no adjudication or further review, much less by a bipartisan team, which again makes it easier for false or or otherwise insufficient signatures to escape detection,’’ Wilenchik wrote.

He also complained that legal observers in Maricopa County were told to remain at a card table, which was at least 10 feet away from computer monitors and screens, and those monitors “were mostly turned away.’’