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Republicans file Arizona election lawsuit related to voting problems and disputed 'SharpieGate' allegations

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 11/8/2020 Jerry Dunleavy
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Hours after news organization decision desks projected that Joe Biden won the presidential election, President Trump's campaign filed a lawsuit in Arizona seeking to count ballots that were purportedly rejected in Maricopa County, relying in part on witness affidavits related to so-called "SharpieGate" allegations.

Details of the lawsuit center on whether poll workers improperly canceled voters' ballots. Trump allies such as American Conservative Union President Matt Schlapp have used the #SharpieGate hashtag in recent days, and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow's American Center for Law & Justice uploaded a video speculating, "SHARPIEGATE" - Is This the Voting Scandal of the Century?" The claims that the use of Sharpies for voting resulted in ballots being improperly thrown out were disputed by Arizona's Republican attorney general, Mark Brnovich, and Democratic secretary of state, Kathleen Hobbs.

“Poll workers struggled to operate the new voting machines in Maricopa County, and improperly pressed and told voters to press a green button to override significant errors,” Matt Morgan, Trump 2020 campaign general counsel, said in a statement on Saturday. “The result is that the voting machines disregarded votes cast by voters in person on Election Day in Maricopa County.”

The lawsuit, if successful, could potentially help Trump inch closer to overtaking the former vice president in the state. Trump trails Biden by about 21,200 votes.

The Arizona Republican Party filed a lawsuit against Arizona’s secretary of state, the Maricopa County recorder, and the clerk of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors as well as other board members in the Superior Court for the State of Arizona. The new lawsuit did not specifically mention the Sharpie allegations, but five of the six attached witness affidavits mentioned alleged problems with using Sharpie markers to fill out ballots.

“Qualified electors casting ballots in person on Election Day in Maricopa County submitted their completed ballot to an electronic tabulation machine. Numerous voters were alerted by these devices to a facial irregularity in their ballot — frequently an ostensible ‘overvote’ — but were induced by poll workers to override the tabulator’s rejection of the ballot in the good faith belief that their vote would be duly registered and tabulated,” the new GOP lawsuit claimed. “In actuality, overriding the electronic tabulator’s alert automatically disqualifies the putative ‘overvotes’ without additional review or adjudication. Arizona law requires that putative overvotes be subjected to further review in an effort to discern the actual intent of the voter ... Potentially thousands of voters across Maricopa County have been disenfranchised by systematic improper tabulator overrides.”

The Republican lawsuit said that poll workers "frequently deviated" from proper protocol "by pressing, or inducing voters to press, the so-called 'green button' on tabulation devices when confronted with alerts signaling apparent defects or irregularities" and explained that "pushing the green button effectively overrides the tabulator’s rejection and causes the ballot to be cast." The lawsuit said that "when confronted with tabulator alerts, poll workers in Maricopa County regularly and systematically either pressed the green button without the voter’s authorization or assent, or instructed or induced the voter to press the green button without disclosing that doing so would cause the ballot to be disqualified and not tabulated with respect to any candidate races or ballot propositions that contained the apparent overvote or other ostensible defect or irregularity."

Democratic lawyer Marc Elias tweeted Saturday evening: “The latest Trump/GOP lawsuit in AZ. A retread of a lawsuit dismissed this morning by a conservative group. They are headed towards 0-10 in court post-election.”

A previous lawsuit by Republicans in Arizona on Wednesday was filed against the Maricopa County Recorder and the Clerk of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

“Plaintiff Laurie Aguilera voted in person in Maricopa County on Election Day, November 3, 2020. She was provided with a sharpie by the poll workers with which to make her ballot. Plaintiff completed her ballot with the provided sharpie. While completing it she noticed that the ink was bleeding through,” the lawsuit alleged. “Plaintiff has been voting in person for several election cycles. However, upon information and belief, she has never before been given a sharpie as a marking device by a poll worker. Plaintiff fed her ballot into the ballot box. The ballot box failed to properly register her vote causing a poll-worker to cancel her ballot in the presence of plaintiff. Plaintiff requested a new ballot but, upon information and blip, upon consultation with the Marcicopa County Recorder’s Office the poll workers refused to provide her with one.”

Democratic lawyers on Thursday pushed back against the claims, saying, “This lawsuit is a wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing. Based on the anecdotal and unconfirmed account of a single voter’s experience voting with a sharpie marker, Plaintiffs request carte blanche access to Maricopa County’s ballot processing facilities — after in-person voting has already concluded — to ‘observe the counting of ballots and the adjudication of voter intent.’ This drastic remedy has the potential, if granted, to throw the processing of ballots in Arizona’s largest county into disarray at the eleventh hour.”

On Saturday, the Republicans in that first lawsuit told the court that they “voluntarily dismiss without prejudice.”

Brnovich said on Thursday that “based on correspondence and conversations with Maricopa County officials, we are now confident that the use of Sharpie markers did not result in disenfranchisement for Arizona voters."

Arizona Deputy Solicitor General Michael Catlett sent a letter to Maricopa County attorney Tom Liddy that said “AGO received a significant number of complaints relating to the use of Sharpie brand markers at voting centers across Maricopa County” but said he didn’t believe the Sharpies had resulted in votes being improperly tossed.

“While some have attempted to characterize those complaints as the product of a ‘conspiracy theory,’ it was necessary and appropriate to conduct some investigation, rather than simply brushing voters off, and to obtain information from the elected officials actually tasked with tabulating votes,” Catlett wrote. “Having received and reviewed your correspondence, AGO is satisfied that the mere use of Sharpie brand markers at voting centers in Maricopa County did not result in disenfranchisement."

Hobbs tweeted that “if you voted a regular ballot in-person, your ballot will be counted, no matter what kind of pen you used (even a Sharpie)!” and further stated that “Marcicopa County provided Sharpies to their voters so the ink doesn’t smudge as ballots are counted onsite. New offset columns on the Maricopa ballots mean bleed-through won’t impact processing… If you followed your county’s instructions, your vote will count, whether you used a Sharpie or other pen.” She also pointed to a posting from the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency which called the Sharpie claims a “rumor.”

“Election officials provide writing instruments that are approved for marking ballots to all in-person voters using hand-marked paper ballots… Although felt-tip pens, like Sharpies, may bleed through ballots, some election officials have stated that ballot tabulation equipment in their jurisdictions can still read these ballots,” CISA said. “Many jurisdictions even design their ballots with offset columns to prevent any potential bleed through from impacting the ability to easily scan both sides of ballots.”

Arizona’s state elections director, Sambo Dul, told the Arizona attorney general’s office that Hobbs “is committed to overseeing a fair election and dispelling misinformation” and “she hopes that the Attorney General shares the same goal and will join an ever-growing chorus of public officials and media sources that have correctly labeled what is now being referred to as ‘SharpieGate’ as the unfounded conspiracy theory that it is.”

Unlike other states, remaining ballots to be counted in Arizona have slightly favored Trump over Biden, and the president has closed the gap between the two by tens of thousands of votes as results are posted. But based on breakdown of votes for Trump and Biden in batches of results posted over the last few days, election analysts project Trump does not lead remaining ballots by a high enough margin to overtake Biden in the state.

There are about 118,000 outstanding ballots in Arizona, including 60,400 votes ready to be inputted, 45,500 provisional ballots (many of which may not be counted), and 12,200 early ballots on which the voter signature does not match the signature and are awaiting a voter "curing" the problem before Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Tags: News, 2020 Elections, Campaigns, Arizona, Election Lawsuits, Campaign 2020

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: Republicans file Arizona election lawsuit related to voting problems and disputed 'SharpieGate' allegations

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