Arizona GOP settles suit over Senate count
PHOENIX — Arizona Republicans who had alleged the state’s two biggest counties were illegally counting some ballots changed course Friday and agreed to settle their lawsuit if rural voters also get an extra chance to fix problems with ballots cast in the state’s tight U.S. Senate race.
The settlement was technically between Republicans and the state’s county recorders, but Democrats and civil rights groups who had jumped into the fray agreed to it as it was announced in a Phoenix courtroom Friday afternoon. Arizona’s 15 counties now have until Wednesday to address the issue, which state Elections Director Eric Spencer said most likely affects fewer than 10,000 votes out of more than 2.3 million cast statewide.
The Republican lawsuit said that the state’s county recorders don’t follow a uniform standard for allowing voters to address problems with the signatures on their mail-in ballots, and that Maricopa and Pima counties improperly allow the fixes for up to five days after Election Day.
The lawsuit settlement in a courtroom packed with more than a dozen lawyers and many reporters came a day after Democrat Kyrsten Sinema jumped into a slight lead over Republican Martha McSally in the midst of the slow vote count. On Friday night, she padded her lead to about 1 percentage point of the 2 million ballots tallied. About 400,000 remain uncounted.
Even as the Republican attorneys pursued a deal that would let conservative-leaning counties match signatures like the two urban ones, a tweet by President Donald Trump seemed to attack the way Maricopa and Pima counties operated. “In Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH,” Trump tweeted. “Electoral corruption — Call for a new Election?”
Four local Republican parties filed the lawsuit Wednesday night challenging the two large counties’ practice of reaching out to voters after Election Day. If the signature on the voter registration doesn’t match that on the sealed envelope, both Maricopa and Pima counties allow voters to help them fix, or “cure” it, up to five days after Election Day.
Many other counties allow voters to fix their signatures until polls close on Election Day. Now, all will follow the standard set by Maricopa, Pima and two other rural counties that allow for post-Election Day fixes.
A Maricopa County official said Thursday that only about 5,600 ballots were affected in her county and the rate is similar in the 14 smaller counties. Spencer said that means fewer than 10,000 in all.