After weeks of fighting, ballot counting may be near finish in Arizona

The canvass of ballots by counties around the state, normally a mundane process, was marked this year by rallies, lawsuits and charges of voting irregularities – many circulated by President Donald Trump, the apparent loser in the election. The secretary of state will certify the election returns within the week, making the Arizona results official. (Photo courtesy of Maricopa County Elections Department)

WASHINGTON – All 15 Arizona counties had submitted official election results by Monday to the secretary of state, who will certify them in the next week or sooner – ending a contentious weeks-long battle over a normally routine process.

That included GOP lawsuits challenging the election, angry rallies outside the Maricopa County Ballot Tabulation Center and even death threats against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

But the last of the lawsuits was dismissed Friday and while the Trump campaign is still pressuring other battleground states, Arizona appears to be out of the crosshairs.

Tom Collins, executive director of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said that fighting over the canvass is “a new development” for what is typically only a formality.

“This step in the process is not a partisan political activity, it’s really been more seen as ratification that the processes have been followed and that these are the official results,” Collins said Monday.

If certified, the results will show Democrat Joe Biden with a narrow 10,457 lead over President Donald Trump, out of almost 3.89 million votes cast. That would award Arizona’s 11 Electoral College votes to Biden, who was declared president-elect weeks ago.

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The results would also confirm Democrat Mark Kelly’s 78,806-vote lead over Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, out of 3.35 million cast. Because he would be filling the seat of the late Sen. John McCain, which McSally has held for the last two years, Kelly could be sworn in as soon as the votes are certified.

It’s all part of what is a normally mundane process. According to the secretary of state’s website, the board of supervisors in each county has to canvass the county’s votes after any audits and discrepancies have been addressed “between six and 20 days after the General Election.” Most counties finished their canvass last week, with Mohave and Maricopa counties sending their result to Hobbs’ office Monday.

The Maricopa County canvass was a two-and-a-half-hour process in which supervisors questioned county election officials at length on a range of complaints and theories that have been raised in recent weeks over the conduct of the elections.

At the end, the five-member board – which includes four Republicans – voted unanimously to accept the results, alternately praising officials for their handling of the election and criticizing those who inflamed emotions around the vote.

“I have been disheartened by individuals using this time to find relevancy or fundraise off this issue,” District 4 Supervisor Clint Hickman said at Friday’s hearing.

“It’s time to dial back the rhetoric, conspiracies, and false claims,” Hickman said. “In a free democracy, elections result in some people’s candidate losing.”

The rhetoric got most heated last week when Hobbs said she was the target of death threats.

“I was prepared for these threats of violence and vitriol,” Hobbs said in a statement. “This does not excuse the perpetrators. Their continued intimidation tactics will not prevent me from performing the duties I swore an oath to do.”

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Challenges also included several lawsuits, including one by the Trump campaign and the state and national GOP claiming ballot-tabulating machines wrongly rejected votes in Maricopa County. A second, by the Arizona Republican Party claimed that Maricopa County’s process for auditing ballots violated state law. In a third case, two Maricopa County residents claimed their votes were not properly counted by voting machines.

All three were quickly dismissed, with prejudice, after judges ruled much of the evidence inadmissible. The last case, from the two individuals, was dismissed Friday.

Trump rallies in Phoenix and Washington organized under the “Stop the Steal” banner. But state and federal officials repeatedly refuted any claims of impropriety.

In a statement, the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said that while there are “many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections.”

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” the agency said in its Nov. 12 statement, just days before Trump abruptly fired CISA Director Christopher Krebs for “highly inaccurate” statements on election security.

Despite rumors of further challenges, Collins does not “anticipate Arizona having any difficulty having its results made official, and then the electors of the party that won the presidency, you know, carrying out their statutory obligations.”

News Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Catherine Fusillo is from Houston and expects to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science. She has been a political reporter at the State Press and an intern at KUHF in Houston.