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Trump campaign files suit in Arizona as vote gap narrows

Trump campaign files suit in Arizona as vote gap narrows

  • Updated

Ballot processing continues in Arizona. 

PHOENIX — Arizona Republicans are still hoping to pull out a “win” for President Trump, even if it doesn’t end up mattering on the national level — and even if it takes going to court.

The Trump reelection committee and the state and national Republican parties filed suit Saturday contending that procedures used in Maricopa County resulted in some voters’ ballots not being tallied. They want a judge to bar the election results from being certified until certain disputed ballots are reviewed.

The lawsuit comes as the latest tallies Saturday added 32,478 new votes in Arizona for the president over Friday night’s figures, compared to 23,835 for Democrat Joe Biden.

That put Trump within about 21,000 votes of taking the lead.

More to the point for Republicans, the daily spread gives the president about 57.7% of the votes between him and Biden. That is close to a rate that, if it continues, is enough to make up the difference by the time all the votes are counted, GOP officials contend.

But it’s going to be close.

There were only about 118,000 votes yet to be tallied.

If Trump continues at that 57.7% rate, he would get about 68,170 of those votes. That would bring his total to slightly more than 1.674 million.

Conversely, Biden getting 42.3% of what’s left would add about 49,974 to his total and put him over 1.677 million — about a 2,000-vote edge.

And that doesn’t account for the fact that Libertarian Jo Jorgensen has been pulling in about 1.5% of all the votes cast in the state.

Arizona GOP spokesman Zach Henry said Saturday that, as far as the party is concerned, nothing has changed from Thursday or Friday when party Chair Kelli Ward argued there is a path to victory for the president. In fact, he said, the Saturday numbers only “reinforce it.”

But that didn’t stop the party from filing suit.

The litigation concerns what happens when automated equipment at polling locations rejects a ballot due to defects, stray marks or other problems.

Voters have an option to cast a new ballot. They also can deposit it into a separate drawer within the device, with the idea that people working at the counting center will review it and determine the voter’s intent.

But Republicans’ attorney Kory Langhofer said what has happened is that some voters, based on advice from poll workers, simply chose to have the problematic ballots submitted as is, meaning no further review.

What that means, he said, is that if a field on the ballot contains what the machinery considers a defect or irregularity, the voter’s intended selections will not be tabulated “even if the voter’s intent could be discerned by a visual review of the ballot.”

Langhofer wants a judge to order a visual review of those ballots once they are identified.

There was no immediate response from Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes.

Democrats declare Arizona for Biden

Democrats, for their part, were more than anxious to declare victory.

“Arizona has delivered its 11 Electoral College votes to now President-elect Joe Biden,” said state Democratic Party Chair Felecia Rotellini in a prepared statement Saturday.

“We are a part of the broadest coalition ever assembled by a Democratic presidential nominee in Arizona,” she said. “We built the kind of team we needed to succeed.”

A Biden win in Arizona would be a Democrat’s first in a presidential race in 24 years.

Rotellini also celebrated that Arizona will have two Democratic U.S. senators, something that hasn’t occurred in more than half a century — when Harry Truman was president. Mark Kelly halted Martha McSally’s bid to keep the Senate seat she got last year from Gov. Doug Ducey that used to belong to John McCain.

Kelly, however, gets just the last two years of McCain’s original term before he has to seek reelection in 2022.

The presidential and Senate races were in many ways linked in Arizona.

McSally banked on her loyalty to Trump to carry her over the top. But as it ended up, she got fewer votes in Arizona than the president.

Ducey defended his 2018 decision to name McSally to the vacant post on the heels of her having just lost that year’s Senate election to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

“The governor is very proud of his appointment,” Ducey press aide Patrick Ptak told Capitol Media Services. He called McSally “an exceptional public servant who has delivered again and again for her constituents.”

Mixed results in down-ticket races

Neither Democrats nor Republicans managed to flip any U.S. House seats in Arizona, with the five incumbent Democrats and four Republicans winning reelection.

Democrats had high hopes of unseating Rep. David Schweikert, who was fined $50,000 for multiple ethics violations.

His win was an example of how Arizona Democrats’ overall goals for the election were less successful down-ticket than at the top of the ballot.

Their hopes of taking control of the Arizona House — or even picking up a single seat to get a 30-30 tie with Republicans — quickly faded.

In the state Senate, meanwhile, one close race in north-central Phoenix and Paradise Valley remains to be decided. But even if Democrat Christine Marsh defeats incumbent Republican Kate Brophy McGee there, it would still leave Republicans with a 16-14 edge in the Senate.

Further down the ticket, Maricopa County Recorder Fontes, a Democrat, was running about 2,500 votes behind Republican challenger Stephen Richer.

Rotellini said she was not discouraged by the results. “I think we held our own,” she said Saturday.

“I will agree that we weren’t as successful as we thought we would be,” she said. “And that means we need to go back and recalibrate, study the data and see where we excelled and where we could have had opportunities but didn’t.”

Why Arizona might still matter for Trump

One reason that Republicans are continuing to fight in the Arizona presidential race is that the results here could become meaningful if there is litigation in Pennsylvania that wipes out the 20 electoral votes that apparently went to Biden on Saturday.

An order by Justice Samuel Alito required election officials in Pennsylvania to separate out the ballots that came in after Election Day.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had earlier ruled that any ballot postmarked by the deadline should be counted. But the Trump campaign contends the U.S. Constitution empowers only the state legislature to make such decisions.

Alito did not forbid the state from counting those late-arriving ballots. But it opens the door for them being removed from the totals should the full high court side with the Republicans.

Also still in play as of Saturday were the 16 electoral votes from Georgia, where Biden was last leading, and 15 in North Carolina, where Trump was ahead.

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