Republican Abe Hamadeh has filed a new legal challenge to his 2022 squeaker loss to Kris Mayes, requesting that Mayes be removed from her illegally gained position. This most recent challenge is based on an allegedly clear statutory precedent. Hamadeh’s attorney, Ryan Heath, contends that because Mayes “has usurped, intruded into or unlawfully holds or exercise the public office of Attorney General,” she “must go.” He requests that the court install Hamadeh as the position’s legally elected candidate.
At the heart of this new case is Hamadeh’s repeated assertion that Maricopa County improperly counted early ballots, pushing Mayes over the top by under 300 votes. The difference with this most recent petition is the request that he should be named AG, “an office to which petitioner is personally entitled.” According to court records, the new case centers on the Arizona law precluding early ballot counts except where the envelope’s affidavit signature matches the voter’s original registration signature.
Hamadeh’s attorney is citing precedent based on a preliminary ruling made this year by Yavapai County Superior Court Judge John Napper. In that case, Judge Napper declared the signature matching law “clear and unambiguous.”
“If mail-in ballot votes were properly rejected because the signatures on the mail-in ballot affidavits were inconsistent with the voters’ signatures on their ‘registration records,’ then petitioner (Hamadeh) would have won the contested race,” Health wrote in the filing. “At the very least, the contested race is uncertain as a matter of law – requiring nullification.”
The law has rarely been applied, the last being in 1999 after the 1998 election of Republican Tony West to the Arizona Corporation Commission. West was ruled ineligible for the office by the Arizona Supreme Court. In that case, however, the originating issue was completely different – state law prohibits anyone “subject to regulation by the commission” from holding an elected position within that same agency. It created a conflict of interest, given that West was licensed to sell securities when elected. However, the principle is the same – that the elected can be removed from office due to violating election rules.
Previously, the Arizona Supreme Court threw out Hamadeh’s bid to revamp and reconsider Maricopa County’s process of verifying signatures on early ballot envelopes. This time, Hamadeh is hoping for a different result. Also, Hamadeh and his attorney, Heath, have backup plans in case the current bid is rejected. One is that Judge Kaiser compels Maricopa County to count on those ballots where the signature matches the original voter registration form. Heath concedes that even if the law supports the action, it would be nearly impossible to achieve since the ballots and envelopes have already been separated.
“In the event that cannot be done, then the election results for the contested race should be set aside and a new election held as soon as possible,” Heath wrote, stating it could happen as early as February 12, 2024. That very remedy is one Hamadeh is requesting in another lawsuit filed by Heath. It contends that long lines and voting-place redirections caused by issues with ballot printers and tabulators resulted in as many as 20% of potential voters being unable to cast ballots on Election Day.
It remains to be seen whether the new filing or its backups will succeed. In the meantime, it appears that Hamadeh is running hard to fill Debbie Lesko’s CD8 Congressional seat.
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