Arizona Supreme Court rejects latest effort to overturn 2020 election results
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Supreme Court has rejected the latest effort by a group of election deniers -- the fourth from members of "We The People'' -- to void and rerun the 2020 vote.
And the justices spurned their requests to let an out-of-state lawyer not licensed to practice here represent them despite their claim no Arizona lawyer is willing to take the job.
In a new order, Justice Ann Scott Timmer, writing for the court, said the challengers want not only to recall the state's 11 electors who voted for Joe Biden but also to order Maricopa County to have another presidential election.
But that's not all.
They want this new election on paper ballots only, counted by hand, without "no excuse'' mail-in ballots. That is based, at least in part, that the equipment used to count the ballots had not been lawfully certified and tested, making any election conducted with them void from the start.
And they want no "Zuckerbucks,'' a references to grants to several counties from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, funded largely by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, to help them with additional costs of the 2020 election.
What's lacking in the latest legal filing, Timmer said, is any legal basis for seeking to rescind a prior election or remove elected officials, which electors are, from office.
It starts, she said, with the fact that the challenge comes far too late.
"The laws of Arizona set forth processes for contesting an election -- a process that requires the filing of a contests within five days after the canvass of the election,'' Timmer wrote. And that occurred at the end of November 2020.
"The failure of a contestant to an election to strictly comply with the statutory requirements is fatal to his right to have the election contested,'' she said. "The rationale for requiring strict compliance with the time provisions for initiating a contest is the strong public policy favoring stability and finality of election results.''
Nor were the justices any more impressed by the arguments, prepared with the assistance of a Florida attorney, that they have the power to ignore the law.
"This court ... observes that petitioners have cited no authority for the proposition that they or anyone else may overturn the Arizona statutes that govern both the conduct of elections and the challenges to the results of such elections,'' Timmer said. "Likewise, they cannot dictate the terms of a proposed effort to 'rerun the 2020 presidential election' which was certified almost two years ago.''
The new order represents the latest in what is becoming a string of defeats for We The People to alter past elections.
It started in May 2021 with a bid to oust several officials elected not just in 2020 but also in 2018, ranging from the governor and some legislators to the sheriffs of Pima and Maricopa counties. Here, too, were arguments of untested election equipment.
But the often rambling 26 pages of legal arguments and 116 pages of exhibits went a step beyond. They argued that once the offices were declared vacant, the state's high court should install the 20 of them as replacements, at least until a properly run election could be called.
And it even asked the justices to overturn the 2019 Tucson city election, specifically naming Mayor Regina Romero as holding office illegally.
It took the court only days to toss the case, and not only for failing to file a challenge on time. Justice John Lopez, writing that ruling, said there is nothing in Arizona law that allows an individual to argue that the person holding the office is not doing so lawfully.
That right, Lopez said, rests solely with the attorney general. But the challengers said they didn't ask Mark Brnovich to act because, as someone who was elected in 2018 at an election they contend was illegally conducted, he has a conflict of interest.
Undeterred, group members went back to the Supreme Court in April 2021 with similar claims, only to have them thrown out for not complying with legal procedures.
And in October 2021 they were back again, alleging that the certificates of election of the presidential electors were "invalid and void.'' That, too, met with the same legal result.
After the three legal losses, the challengers apparently recognized they could not handle the legal proceedings by themselves. So they asked the justices to allow Russell A. Newman, an attorney from Florida to represent them even though he is not licensed to practice law in Arizona.
"Over the last six months we have attempted to obtain local counsel here in Arizona but we have been unsuccessful,'' wrote three members of the group in the latest legal filing. "The main reason we were denied counsel, was because of fear of losing their bar license or being sanctioned for filing a case involving the 2020 election.''
They did not explain. But there is precedent for attorneys to be hit with legal fees -- and even find themselves under investigation -- if a court finds they filed an entirely frivolous lawsuit.
And there's something else.
"Most of the Arizona lawyers lack the ability to defend our case,'' the challengers said, saying they lack knowledge of the claims in the lawsuit while Newman, who is listed as providing "assistance'' in preparing the claim, does have that knowledge.
Timmer tossed the request, saying the court's decision that the latest claim has no merit makes moot the claim of needing help for the rest of the case.
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