(NEXSTAR) — Arizona state officials will meet on Monday to conduct the state’s vote canvass and officially declare winners from last month’s elections, a once low-profile step that this year is expected to spark lawsuits from multiple Republicans.
GOP figures have seized on printer malfunctions in the most populous jurisdiction of Maricopa County, contesting election officials’ insistence that no voter was disenfranchised and vowing to fight back in court when the state moves ahead.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s and Republican attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh’s campaigns have both signaled they will take legal action after tomorrow’s meeting, and the certification is also expected to spark recounts in multiple close races.
Republicans have also criticized Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) for declining to recuse herself from signing Monday’s paperwork given that she is now governor-elect, having defeated Lake last month.
Hobbs’s office has pushed back on those criticisms, portraying it as a ministerial act and noting that Gov. Doug Ducey (R), state Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) and the state supreme court’s chief justice are also expected to be in attendance.
The standoff echoes two years ago, when Ducey ignored a call from former President Trump to overturn President Biden’s victory in the state.
Here’s what to expect after Arizona certifies the vote tomorrow at 10 a.m. local time:
Under state law, election officials conduct recounts of races in which the vote difference between candidates is less than 0.5 percent following the state canvass.
Sophia Solis, a spokeswoman for Hobbs’s office, said that means Monday’s meeting will spark recounts for the contests for attorney general, state superintendent and a state legislative seat near Phoenix.
In the attorney general’s race, Hamadeh, the Republican candidate, trails Democrat Kris Mayes by just 510 votes out of more than 2.5 million ballots cast — a margin of just 0.02 percent.
That razor-thin margin would have gone to an automatic recount in years past as well, but a new law passed by the state legislature earlier this year increased the threshold from 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent.
That will cause Republican Tom Horne and Democrat Kathy Hoffman’s race for state superintendent to also go to a recount. Horne currently leads Hoffman by 0.36 percentage points, or about 9,000 raw votes.
New GOP lawsuits
Hamadeh’s and Lake’s campaigns have both indicated they will contest the results after the state canvass on Monday. Under state law, they have five days to do so after the meeting.
Hamadeh had already formally contested his election result in court, but a state judge dismissed the case as premature, saying Hamadeh must wait until the state canvass takes place.
Democrats had asked the judge to dismiss the case with prejudice so that Hamadeh wouldn’t be able to refile it after Monday, but the judge declined to do so.
“Plaintiffs’ lawsuit is premature,” the judge ruled. “That does not mean Plaintiffs must wait to file suit until after a recount, which everyone agrees will be needed for this race.”
A spokesperson for Hamadeh said last week he planned to refile the case after the state meeting, adding that, “The merits of the lawsuit still stand.”
Hamadeh’s suit largely focuses on the printer malfunctions in Maricopa County — which includes Phoenix and roughly 60 percent of Arizona’s population — that printed ballots too light for tabulators to read.
County election officials have insisted voters could use one of multiple backup options, but Hamadeh’s now-dismissed lawsuit accuses them of misconduct and contests statistics they published about the issues.
Lake’s campaign has yet to formally contest her election result, but the Trump ally has conducted a series of interviews in recent days signaling she will do so.
“We’re going to be bringing our lawsuit after it is certified at the state level,” Lake told conservative radio host Joe Pags last week. “And we believe we have an excellent lawsuit. We have great attorneys working on it.”
Continuation of existing lawsuits
Although Lake has not formally contested her election result, she and others have filed other lawsuits in the wake of the election.
Lake’s campaign last month sued over public records requests it filed asking for additional data on the Maricopa County malfunctions, asking a state judge to delay the county’s certification until it completed the request.
Maricopa’s GOP-controlled board unanimously certified its vote canvass last week after responding to a separate information request from Arizona’s attorney general.
The judge has now expedited the case, scheduling a hearing for Wednesday afternoon.
“The Court hopes that the parties will resolve this dispute prior to the hearing, in which case the hearing will not be necessary,” the judge wrote in announcing the timeline.
Other Arizona Republicans have filed a series of lawsuits that have also been unsuccessful so far, but it is possible they could still appeal.