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AZ GOP Chair Kelli Ward Continues To Argue Election Case In Court

Published: Thursday, December 3, 2020 - 1:11pm
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STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Three days after Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Mark Brnovich gathered with Gov. Doug Ducey to certify the state's general election results, even as the White House was calling the governor on his cell phone, a virtual hearing on the validity of ballot signatures is going to take place at 10:30 this morning as a follow-up to a Monday preliminary hearing in front of Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner. Arizona's GOP chair, Kelli Ward will attempt to prove the sample of a couple of hundred ballots were not counted correctly, and that could indicate a larger problem. President [Donald] Trump's campaign has attempted this same approach in a number of states, and it's been rejected at every turn. With me to talk more about what Ward is trying to convince the judge of and what could be next is KJZZ's Ben Giles. Hi, Ben.

BEN GILES: Good morning.

GOLDSTEIN: So what is going to be presented at this hearing?

GILES: So for the past couple of days, attorneys for Kelli Ward have been inspecting two batches of, quote unquote "evidence." There's 100 randomly selected early ballot envelopes and then 100 duplicate ballots. Those are ballots that were cast at polling places that, they were damaged or there were other problems and they had to be reproduced to ensure that they could be read properly by the vote counting machines. And what attorneys for Ward are doing is basically second-guessing, on the envelopes, the signature verification process that early ballots must undergo before they're counted and on those damaged ballots, just looking for any sort of sign of an error, maybe about the way the machine counted those votes. Now, this is a very small sample size. And what they argue is that they will extrapolate the error rate, if they find an error rate that is, and that that should theoretically be applied to all of the ballots cast in Maricopa County. And perhaps, perhaps that will show enough of an error rate that the whole election result for the presidential race should be tossed.

GOLDSTEIN: And there is a lot of surprise from different corners as to why this hearing's even taking place, especially considering some of the wording from Judge Warner. Why are we having this?

GILES: Well, that was the argument from attorneys for the secretary of state, Katie Hobbs. They were kind of flabbergasted at the hearing Monday that the judge was allowing this to go forward at all. They argued there's no real evidence that was presented in this request for discovery to review these envelopes, these ballots. There was no real evidence to show that something was wrong and that there is a need to look at this, to double-check the work of the signature verification process. And the judge said maybe that's true, but he basically teed this case up, he said, for the Supreme Court. He said multiple times, my ruling isn't going to be the final word on this. The Supreme Court, this is going to get appealed to it. And I want to make sure that they have enough information to handle this case when it gets to them in a timely manner. Specifically, say the Supreme Court were to rule that this discovery was necessary, and there is perhaps a problem with the ballots. Warner said that needs to be figured out before the Electoral College meets on Dec.14. So given that shortened time frame, he's allowing the inspection to go forward now. But he did acknowledge, you know, maybe the Supreme Court will say I shouldn't have done this.

GOLDSTEIN: So, Ben, what is the end game here for GOP chair Kelli Ward? What is she aiming at here? I mean, it's, it seems out of the Trump playbook, clearly, but what's, what's the best that could happen here for her?

GILES: Best case scenario for Ward and the Republican Party is they convince the judge and then eventually the Supreme Court that, you know, there is signs of issues with the way signatures are verified and ballots were counted in Maricopa County. So much so that it throws into question the results of the presidential race, which President-elect Joe Biden won in Arizona. And if, if a court were to agree, judges were to agree, they could annul the results of the presidential race. And then you could argue that it's up to the Arizona legislature to decide, "OK, who gets those 11 Electoral College votes for Arizona?" Maybe they give them to Trump at this point.

GOLDSTEIN: And, Ben, finally, how much of a rift does this reveal within the state GOP? Gov. Ducey obviously was not enthusiastic about saying Joe Biden had won, but he did say it and he was there to certify the results. We know how Attorney General Mark Brnovich has felt about this. He said it on FOX News, saying there's nothing there. How do you explain how most Republicans ended up winning? In fact, even knocking out Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. So how do you say there's a real conspiracy there? And yet there's also Kelli Ward side. There are some activist legislators as well. Is there a rift revealed in this? And could this really cause problems going forward?

GILES: There really is a disconnect, I think as much as some officials like Gov. Doug Ducey has tried to walk a line where he, he's defended the election process here, he's defended Arizona's vote-by-mail system, but he's also often tried to go out of his way to acknowledge that there are legal avenues for people to challenge the results of the election. I just don't know if this is necessarily this avenue that Ward is taking is something that the collective Republican Party in Arizona can agree on. But Ward, and as you said, some of those state legislators that participated in a so-called hearing on Tuesday — in — on Monday, excuse me — in Phoenix, when Rudy Giuliani, Trump's attorney, was here, they are, they are diehards in this effort to, to try and overthrow the results of the election. And no matter what it takes, it seems no matter what legal argument needs to be made, I think that's where the disconnect is.

GOLDSTEIN: KJZZ's Ben Giles. Ben, thank you.

GILES: Thank you.

GOLDSTEIN: And in another twist, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow a review of up to 2,500 additional ballots, or as many as could be reviewed by the time of this morning's hearing. According to a release from the board, its members, quote, "did so in order to provide further clarity and confidence in the election results," end quote.

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