Outgoing and incoming Arizona governors certify '22 election, Ducey says results should be out on Election Night
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Outgoing Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey wants a big change in state election law that he said should lead to people knowing the outcome of all contested races that night, or soon after.
The governor, on the heels of participating in the formal certification of the highly contested results on the November, election, said Monday he has trust in Arizona elections. That canvass saw him and other state officials sign the paperwork formally declaring the winners.
That includes Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs outpolling Republican Kari Lake in the race to succeed him as governor. But Lake, along with some other losing candidates, already said she will take advantage of the five-day window following the canvass to ask a judge to overturn the results.
"I think we do them well,'' Ducey said of the elections without commenting on the outcome. But he said there are things that can be done to increase voter confidence.
And that, he said, most notably involves getting finality quicker.
The governor said that people who want to drop off their early ballots at polling places on Election Day should be able to have them opened and counted there along with those who actually vote that day. Now, counties send those "late early ballots'' unopened to a central location where the signatures on the envelopes must be compared to those already on file.
Only after that happens are the envelopes actually opened and the votes tallied. And that process, which can take days, occurs only after all other ballots are counted.
Ducey's comments followed claims by Lake that election officials were deliberately slowing the count in order to delay her being declared the winner.
"They're slow-rolling the results, and they're trying to delay the inevitable,'' she told Newsmax three days after the election.
As it turned out, the certification signed by Ducey and others on Monday show she lost to Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes.
"I want to rebuild trust in our election system,'' Ducey said after participating in the formal certification of the results of the general election. That process, which also involves the secretary of state, the attorney general and the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, went off without event.
"But I would like us to have the winner decided the day of the election -- the day following in a highly competitive race -- or as close as we can get,'' the governor said. "And I think that would be the objective.''
Ducey brushed aside questions of whether such a system might actually gum up the process, leading to even longer lines at polling places as people who used to simply drop their early ballot envelopes into boxes and leave now would have to produce identification and then have their ballot envelopes opened.
"That's the price of being a citizen and wanting to participate,'' he said.
The governor said the controversy surrounding elections this year should come as no surprise.
Ducey said the process for voting and counting is no different than it was in 2014 when he first ran for governor and then, four years later on being reelected.
"We were able to make a declaration or a call on who was the victor in most of the cases,'' he said. But things, Ducey said, have changed.
"Elections have become much more competitive,'' he said. And the governor said getting those last-minute early ballots counted immediately would mean counties would be "much closer to 100% of the votes counted by the close of business.''
Monday's canvass is not the last word on election returns but simply sets the clock running for what are expected to be several legal challenges to the outcome.
Lake already has alleged that Election Day issues in Maricopa County affected the outcome and her loss to Katie Hobbs.
That includes issues where tabulators at some vote centers could not read the ballots printed on site and that some people who went to second location did not have their votes counted.
County officials acknowledged the problems. But they insisted that no one was denied the ability to cast a ballot, even if it was not tallied on site.
Lake contends, however, that the problems, some of which led to lines at some voting centers, had an outsize effect on
Republicans who are more likely to vote on Election Day than Democrats who generally prefer casting early ballots.
Two other legal actions already are written and waiting.
Republican Abe Hamadeh, the losing candidate for attorney general, is using those Maricopa County Election Dahy issues to claim that the results showing Democrat Kris Mayes got 510 more votes should be disregarded.
Hamadeh actually filed suit last month. But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner tossed the case, saying his filing was premature.
A similar fate met failed Republican congressional candidate Josh Barnett.
He went to court last month, not over his own election -- he came in third in the August GOP primary -- but instead with a laundry list of allegations about broken laws and rules in the general election. Barnett, representing himself, said that precludes the state from certifying the winners on the races for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and U.S. senator, all races won by Democrats.
But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Alison Bachus said Barnett's complaint, regardless of how it was worded, was an election challenge that could not be filed until after Monday's canvass.
And Mark Finchem who lost his bid for secretary of state to Democrat Adrian Fontes, also has vowed to sue, even sending an email to supporters on Sunday asking for $120,000 to cover "the cost of bringing the fraudulent Arizona election to court.''
But Finchem, who lost his race by more than 120,000, may be having trouble lining up legal help. On Thursday, he posted a message on Twitter saying "No RNC lawyer is calling me to help,'' a reference to the fact that the Republican National Committee has interceded at least to help Hamadeh in his case.
Even without litigation, Monday's action is not the last word in two of the races.
That 510-vote difference between Hamadeh and Mayes is well within one-half of 1 percent of all votes cast. That triggers an automatic recount.
But that recount is done through electronic tabulation; there is nothing that requires a full hand count.
A similar situation exists in the race for state schools chief where Republican Tom Horne has an 8,967-vote edge over Democratic incumbent Kathy Hoffman, also within the recount margin.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich, one of the four state officials involved in Monday's formal canvass, acknowledged that there is more to come before the results are final.
In a prepared statement, Brnovich said he and Ducey "merely serve as witnesses'' to the Hobbs' certification, saying that his participation "serve as neither an endorsement of the election results nor the lawfulness under which the election was conducted.'' That, he said, will be decided through individual election challenges.
Monday's formal canvass, which consists of officials signing the formal results, lacked the little bit of drama that occurred two years ago when Ducey, about to ink his approval to the certification, got a call on his cell phone with the ring of "Hail to the Chief.'' That's a ringtone he had assigned to the White House to ensure he would not miss any calls from Donald Trump or Mike Pence, his vice president.
Ducey ignored the call from Trump who was trying to get Republicans across the nation to refuse to certify results showing that Democrat Joe Biden had won the popular vote.