Arizona certifies 2022 election, setting stage for lawsuits, recounts

Dec 5, 2022, 12:59 PM | Updated: 2:59 pm

PHOENIX – Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs certified the state’s 2022 general election Monday, but it doesn’t close the books on the midterms.

Three races – two statewide and one legislative — are subject to automatic recounts under state law.

And there are expected to be lawsuits that challenge the legitimacy of the results because of Election Day tabulation issues at vote centers in Maricopa County.

Hobbs, a Democrat, was joined by Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich, both Republicans, along with Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel at Monday’s canvass.

Each of them signed the paperwork required to make official the results for federal, statewide and legislative offices and statewide ballot measures.

Hobbs, Arizona’s governor-elect, called the Nov. 8 election “successful” but warned of expected “challenges from the election denial community” to come.

“But for now, Arizonans can stand proud knowing that this election was conducted with transparency, accuracy and fairness in accordance with Arizona’s election laws and procedures,” she said.

Ducey explained that the statewide canvass process was required under state law, which he was sworn to uphold.

“This is a responsibility I do not take lightly; it’s one that recognizes the votes cast by the citizens of our great state,” he said.

After noting that he and Ducey were required to act as witnesses in the canvass, Brnovich somewhat cryptically paraphrased John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address.

“We do not actually certify the election,” said Brnovich, whose term ends in early January and who lost in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate earlier this year.

“And I am reminded of what John F. Kennedy often said, that those who ride the tiger to seek power often end up inside.”

Brnovich’s office sent out a statement after the canvass saying his participation was not an endorsement of the results, and he promised to defend election laws as long as he is in office.

“As attorney general, I have made it one of my office’s highest priorities to defend our election laws and advocate for changes when necessary. I will continue to do so throughout the end of my term,” he said in the statement.

All 15 of the state’s counties had to certify their results and forward them to the Secretary of State’s Office before the statewide canvass could take place. The counties, not the Secretary of State’s Office, conduct the elections in accordance with state laws.

Fourteen counties completed their canvasses by last Monday’s state-mandated deadline. Cochise County’s three-member board of supervisors went past the deadline because two Republicans held out. The county finally certified its results Thursday in accordance with a judge’s order.

The certification opens a five-day window for formal election challenges. Republican Kari Lake, who lost to Hobbs in the race for governor, is expected to file a lawsuit after weeks of criticizing the administration of the election.

Republicans have complained for weeks about Hobbs’ role in certifying her own victory over Lake, though it is typical for election officials to maintain their position while running for higher office. Lake and her allies have focused on problems with ballot printers that produced about 17,000 ballots that could not be tabulated on site and had to be counted at the elections department headquarters.

Lines backed up in some polling places, fueling Republican suspicions that some supporters were unable to cast a ballot, though there’s no evidence it affected the outcome. County officials say everyone was able to vote and all legal ballots were counted.

Hobbs immediately petitioned the Maricopa County Superior Court to begin an automatic statewide recount required by law in three races decided by less than half a percentage point. The race for attorney general was one of the closest contests in state history, with Democrat Kris Mayes leading Republican Abe Hamadeh by just 510 votes out of over 2.5 million cast.

The races for superintendent of public instruction and one state House seat from Legislative District 13 also fell within the threshold that triggers an automatic recount.

Once a Repubican stronghold, Arizona’s top races went resoundingly for Democrats after Republicans nominated a slate of candidates backed by former President Donald Trump who focused on supporting his false claims about the 2020 election. In addition to Hobbs and Mayes, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly was reelected and Democrat Adrian Fontes won the race for secretary of state.

The winners are set to be inaugurated at a Jan. 5 ceremony.

The Associated Press contributed to this report to this report.

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Arizona certifies 2022 election, setting stage for lawsuits, recounts