Arizona Republican loses election lawsuit in secretary of state race

An Arizona judge has dismissed a lawsuit from Mark Finchem, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, that challenged the results in his race, confirming Democrat Adrian Fontes’ victory in the contest. 

Fontes, who previously served as Maricopa County recorder, won by about 120,000 votes, but Finchem filed his suit claiming that technical issues in Maricopa County cost him about 200,000 votes, which would be enough to change the race’s result. 

Printer issues occurred at 70 of Maricopa’s 223 voting centers on Election Day, causing the ink on certain ballots to be too light for tabulators to read, but election officials have maintained that everyone still had the ability to vote. They responded to the issue by allowing voters to wait in line until it was resolved, vote at a different voting center or drop their ballot in a box to be counted later. 

But Finchem and GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake each filed separate lawsuits stating that the issues disenfranchised largely Republican voters, who are more likely to vote on Election Day instead of in advance. 

Fontes and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs each filed motions to dismiss the challenges. 

Finchem also claimed that the voting machines in Arizona were not properly certified, which state election officials have denied and for which Finchem did not provide evidence. 

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Melissa Julian rejected Finchem’s arguments, noting that the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which supervises the accreditation process, provides for the process for testing and certification of voting system hardware and software, but states can choose whether to adopt it. 

Finchem argued that the EAC’s Voting System Test Laboratory manual requires a voting machine’s certificates to be signed by the EAC’s chair, so the fact that the certificates were signed by its executive director should take away the accreditation. 

But Julian said in her ruling that federal law requires the EAC to take a vote to remove accreditation from a laboratory, which it did not do. 

Julian also rejected arguments from Finchem that “tabulating machine failures” and a change in the estimated number of votes cast on the secretary of state’s website indicate that illegal voting happened. She said Finchem’s argument only mentions speculation that votes might not have been counted and not that any legal votes were not counted, which cannot sustain an election contest. 

Finchem argued that Hobbs committed misconduct in her oversight of the state’s elections, but none of his allegations reached the level of “misconduct” required to survive a motion to dismiss. 

Fontes praised the judge’s ruling on Twitter, writing that “Tonight’s ruling is about protecting the will of the voters, not about any single politician.” 

The Hill has reached out to Finchem’s attorney for comment.