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Judge dismisses GOP bid to undo Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona

Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward, left, and her husband, Michael Ward. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge has thrown out a Republican bid to undo Democrat President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona, concluding the GOP failed to prove fraud in a challenge of election results in metro Phoenix and that evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse President Donald Trump’s loss in the state.

Judge Randall Warner on Friday dismissed Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s challenge of ballots in metro Phoenix that were duplicated because voters’ earlier ballots were damaged or could not be run through tabulators.

Poll observers called to testify by Ward said they witnessed problems in the processing of duplicated ballots, but the judge wrote that those problems were pointed out to election workers, who then fixed the mistakes.

Warner wrote “there is no evidence that the inaccuracies were intentional or part of a fraudulent scheme. They were mistakes. And given both the small number of duplicate ballots and the low error rate, the evidence does not show any impact on the outcome.”

Jack Wilenchik, Ward’s attorney, said the state’s GOP chief will appeal the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court. “We have a significant issue to litigate here,” Wilenchik said.

Her lawsuit says some suburbs on the southeastern edge of Maricopa County had an unusually high number of duplicated ballots — and that the election results in that area were “strongly inconsistent” with voter registration and historical voting data. It also alleged the software used in processing such ballots would “prefill” Biden’s name on ballots more often than it did President Donald Trump.

Attorneys defending election officials in the lawsuit said it would be an extraordinary move for a court to reverse an election in which more than 3 million Arizonans voted.

A court-ordered sampling of 1,626 duplicated ballots found Trump lost seven votes due to errors in ballot processing in Maricopa County. An election official had testified Trump could have lost 103 votes if the error rate were extrapolated across all 27,800 duplicated ballots in the county. Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes.

Warner also dismissed Ward’s claims that Republican poll observers weren’t given adequate access to the signature-verification of mail-in ballots and duplicated ballots, saying those complaints should have been brought up sooner.

The judge also said no evidence of misconduct surfaced during a court-ordered inspection of 100 voter signatures on the envelopes for mail-in ballots. The aim of the review was to see whether ballots were falsely verified.

The state’s election results were certified on Monday, showing Biden won Arizona. The Electoral College is scheduled to meet on Dec. 14.

No evidence of voter fraud or election fraud has emerged during this election season in Arizona. U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has said the Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

Even though Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said earlier this week that Arizona’s election was well-run as he certified the Nov. 3 results, many GOP politicians in the state have mostly been silent or slow to express confidence in the election results that gave Biden a victory in Arizona.

Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers broke ranks with many in his party Friday when he released a lengthy statement rejecting what he called a “breathtaking” request from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani for the Legislature to step in and replace electors legally pledged for Biden with others who would support Trump.

Bowers said Giuliani presented theories of voter fraud but no proof, and he said there’s no way the Legislature could reverse the will of the voters.

Four earlier election challenges in Maricopa County were dismissed, including one filed by the state Republican Party that sought to determine whether voting machines were hacked.

One election challenge remains pending in Arizona.

Firebrand conservative attorney Sidney Powell, who was removed from Trump’s legal team, asked a judge to decertify the state’s votes, alleging that there were more than 400,000 illegal ballots counted in the state, and criticized the voting equipment used in metro Phoenix.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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