Kari Lake files suit against Maricopa County election officials

Republican Kari Lake has filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County election officials, demanding they provide information about voters whose ballots were affected by tabulation mishaps in the county on Election Day in a last-ditch attempt to cast doubt on the results that determined she lost her bid for governor.

In a video interview with former Trump administration official Steve Bannon, Lake slammed the county’s handling of the election and said the information her campaign is seeking will be used to bolster a follow-up lawsuit.

“We need information from Maricopa County. They ran the shoddiest election ever in history and we want some information,” Lake said in the video. “We’re on a timeline, a very strict timeline when it comes to fighting this botched election.”

Lake, who has built her brand on the inaccurate claim that the 2020 election was marred by fraud, has previously indicated that she would refuse to accept the outcome of a midterm election in which she was not the winner. Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs won the gubernatorial race by around 17,000 votes, a margin by which a recount is not warranted under current state law.

Problems with on-demand printers on Election Day affected around 70 polling places in Maricopa County and resulted in some confusion as voters were directed to either place their ballot in a special drawer, nicknamed Door #3, for later tabulation at Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center or check-out of vote centers experiencing issues to vote at a second site. Some 146 people left voting centers experiencing issues without checking out and traveled to a second site, where they were issued provisional ballots. The county promised to review and count those provisional ballots.

In the brief, Lake’s attorney alleges that as many as 118 polling centers in the county dealt with issues because of tabulators which wouldn’t read ballots, leading to frustrated voters who were forced to wait in long lines or left without voting. The lawsuit requests that the court require the county’s election officials to provide public records before the canvassing deadline of Nov. 28, to give Lake’s campaign time to seek redress.

“In the absence of an immediate and comprehensive production of the requested public records, (Kari Lake) cannot ascertain the full extent of the problems identified and their impacts on electors,” wrote Timothy La Sota, Lake’s attorney.

The lawsuit relies on declarations from voters, some of whom shared that they ended up leaving due to long wait times, said they were afraid their votes weren’t properly counted or personally witnessed chaotic conditions at poll sites.

The information being requested is extensive and wide-ranging, including the names and contact information of voters who were present at polling sites that experienced printer malfunctions, the number of ballots that were spoiled or canceled for any reason, and the number of UOCAVA ballots, cast by overseas military members, and their verification processes.

Also requested are the names and contact information of voters who dropped off a mail-in ballot on Election Day and also submitted an in-person ballot, resulting in the rejection of the former. The information of voters who filled in provisional ballots after checking in at a second site, as well as data on polling sites and the wait times that were reported online were also requested.

Adjudication, the process by which election officials determine the intent of a voter when dealing with uncertainty about the voter’s eligibility or choice, also came under fire in the lawsuit, which requested that adjudication rates by legislative district be provided.

Lake’s lawsuit comes as election officials in the state are grappling with several challenges from Republican politicians. On Tuesday, Republican nominee for Attorney General Abe Hamadeh filed against Maricopa County, claiming that issues on Election Day cost him the race. The Republican National Committee joined Hamadeh in his suit, but did not bolster Lake’s.

Also on Tuesday, outgoing Republican state Sen. Kelly Towsend, who currently chairs the Senate Government Committee, subpoenaed the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, which oversees Election Day voting. Townsend, a frequent proponent of the Big Lie, demanded that the board provide more information on the tabulation and printer malfunctions that occurred during the midterm election and gave them until Nov. 28 at 9:30 a.m. to answer.

Maricopa County Offices are closed Nov. 24 and Nov. 25 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a letter on Saturday asking Maricopa County for an explanation of how the problems with on-demand printers at polling sites occurred and were fixed. The county replied it would answer after the official canvass on Nov. 28, which is statutorily mandated, was completed.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Court puts Arizona territorial-era abortion ban on hold

A recently reinstated near-total abortion ban from 1864 is on hold after the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood, pausing the law while the organization continues to challenge it and restoring access to abortion across the Grand Canyon State.

On Sept. 23, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson struck down a 1973 injunction that blocked the 1864 ban, reasoning that the injunction was no longer valid after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. Her ruling immediately outlawed all abortions in Arizona except those to save the life of the mother.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the Pima court to end the injunction.

Planned Parenthood Arizona filed for an emergency stay of the ban during the appeals process, citing confusion between conflicting laws. Johnson had refused to reconcile the 1864 law with more recent abortion laws, one of which is a 15-week ban signed this year by Gov. Doug Ducey. Johnson denied the request for a stay, saying Planned Parenthood had other legal options to clarify the laws, including suing the state. She also rejected the request to pause her ruling while it was on appeal.

But on Friday afternoon, a three-judge panel rejected Johnson’s decision and approved Planned Parenthood Arizona’s request to put the ban on hold during the appeals process. Johnson was wrong not to reconcile the conflicting laws, the panel argued, as it is the responsibility of the courts to clarify legal confusion.

The panel also sided with Planned Parenthood Arizona’s argument that failure to grant a stay would harm women because doctors would delay care in fear of prosecution, an argument that Johnson had rejected.

“Arizona courts have a responsibility to attempt to harmonize all of this state’s relevant statutes,” the court wrote in its brief. “The court further concludes the balance of hardships weigh strongly in favor of granting the stay, given the acute need of healthcare providers, prosecuting agencies, and the public for legal clarity as to the application of our criminal laws.”

In an emailed statement, Planned Parenthood called the decision a relief for both women and health care providers in Arizona, and stated it would resume services in the state.

“Today’s decision provides a desperately needed sense of security for both our patients and providers,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We can now breathe a sigh of relief and serve patients. While the fight isn’t over, for now, Arizonans will once again be able to make their own decisions about their bodies, health care decisions, and futures.”

Brittany Fonteno, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, warned that the 1864 law is still in play and vowed to continue challenging it in court.

“While today’s ruling brings temporary respite to Arizonans, the ongoing threat of this extreme, near-total abortion ban that has no regard for the health care of those across the state, including survivors of rape or incest remains very real,” she said.

Democratic state Rep. Athena Salman echoed Fonteno, saying that, while the new ruling is a reprieve for women seeking abortion, it’s a temporary fix. She challenged Ducey to call a special legislative session to repeal the 1864 law.

Ducey has repeatedly said the 15-week ban should take precedent, which has contributed to the confusion over the conflicting laws. He has also resisted calls for a special session, noting that Republicans are unlikely to support repealing the 1864 law.

“If Governor Ducey can find a meager two Republican legislators in each chamber to join with our unified Democratic Caucus, we can fix this today by repealing the Civil-War-era total ban on abortion,” she said in a written statement.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Arizona students walkout in protest of new anti-LGBTQ laws

Hundreds of Arizona high school students walked out of their schools into the glaring afternoon sun on Thursday to protest the record number of anti-LGBTQ bills passed by the GOP-controlled state Legislature this year.

“Dear (Gov. Doug) Ducey and Arizona representatives, these bills are killing us,” walkout organizer Dawn Shim told a crowd of students at Hamilton High School in Chandler. “They are killing our peers. We do not need anymore students hurt by your actions. We aren’t out here missing our school day and interrupting our education because we want to. We have been forced into it.”

Shim, a 16-year-old junior at Hamilton, founded the organization that mobilized students across the half a dozen schools less than six months ago, after reading about legislation targeting transgender minors in the state that lawmakers were considering.

That group, Chandler-based Support Equality Arizona Schools, is made up of 10 core students, but has supporters in Gilbert, Tucson and Flagstaff. Its mission is to advocate for equity, with a focus on minority and LGBTQ+ students. The initiative fills a gap for high schoolers who can’t make their voices heard at the ballot box yet.

“Across America, more and more anti-LGBTQ legislation is being passed by the people sworn in to protect us,” Shim said. “We also have a burgeoning mental health crisis among young teens. These two factors are not coincidental. The Trevor Project finds that, in 2022, almost 45% of LGBTQ youth considered suicide in the last year.”

Support Equality Arizona Schools has met with legislators, attended city council meetings and reached out to school board members — all with the goal of securing a promise that anti-LGBTQ legislation won’t be enacted at schools.

All of the laws signed into law earlier this year went into effect Saturday. Several of them are set to have far-reaching consequences for LGBTQ and trans youth across the state. One bars trans students from joining girls sports teams and another prohibits trans minors from obtaining gender-affirming surgery.

Other laws target schools, including one that forces schools to hand over all student records to parents, even if they contain sensitive personal information, and another that bans sexually explicit materials, which is already leading to the removal of LGBTQ books. At Glendale Union High School District, schools have been instructed to remove books that may conflict with the new law, among them titles such as Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

Kanix Gallow, 14, is one of the core group of 10 that form the Support Equality Arizona Schools initiative. He hopes the walkouts will make clear to both legislators and school officials that Arizona students don’t support anti-LGBTQ measures.

Gallow is concerned about the effect the laws will have on students’ mental health, and pointed out that suicide rates are already high enough among LGBTQ youth without adding hurtful rhetoric on top of that.

“We just want our students safe and accepted in our schools. We don’t want to lose anyone else,” he said.

At Chandler High School, around 200 students made the trek two blocks down to Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, where they gathered in the small grassy area to listen to speakers and wave handmade posters at passing cars. Across town at Hamilton High School, a group of students gathered in the shade of a tree outside of Hamilton Library, which adjoins the school, to share their anger, passion and fears about the new laws and the general treatment of LGBTQ students.

“It is embarrassing that we live in a state and a country where people are at risk simply for being who they are and loving who they want,” said Blues Patrick, a senior at Hamilton High school.

Khye Jackson, a junior at Hamilton, said he was there to support his LGBTQ classmates.

“Love is love,” Jackson said. “All these people out here are family to me. We all go to the same school.”

Jackson, who is Black, said that it makes him feel distressed to hear about LGBTQ classmates facing discrimination, because Black people face discrimination, as well.

Ace Yates, a 14-year-old who joined the march at Chandler High, spoke hesitatingly into a portable speaker, sharing how difficult being trans was at home. His mother claims to be accepting, but refuses to use the correct pronouns. Listeners in the crowd booed.

Fortunately, Yates said, his mother isn’t hostile to his gender identity — just negligent. It’s frustrating, but other trans kids deal with dangerous home lives: parents that could quickly turn abusive if they’re outed, as is now a possibility with a new law passed earlier this year that forces schools to turn over confidential student records to parents upon request.

“School should be a safe place. Teachers are often the only people students with homophobic parents can talk to, and this law shatters that,” Yates said.

Jay Nash, who is also trans, has firsthand experience with keeping sensitive information away from unwelcoming relatives. He has to hide his identity from several family members.

“I have to stay hidden half of the time. It sucks,” he said.

On top of facing scrutiny at home, Nash has to deal with hurtful rhetoric from GOP state legislators. It’s disheartening to hear elected officials dissect his identity and pass restrictive laws, he said.

“I like having rights,” he said with a chagrined laugh.

Yana Artuz, 14, waved a miniature bisexual pride flag back and forth. She said she heard about anti-LGBTQ legislation and felt compelled to join the march, despite not being directly affected by the laws being passed. The work to bring awareness to injustices, she said, is the responsibility of everyone, regardless of sexuality.

“If nobody comes out and talks, nothings going to happen,” she said.

At Hamilton High, the importance of organizing as a community was equally highlighted.

“I don’t want to stand up here and offer platitudes,” said Leela Raj-Sankar, a junior at Hamilton. “Of course, all of you know that you should be yourself. All of you know that you should accept yourself for who you are, you should be accepted. And we shouldn’t be up here fighting because we deserve to be children.”

Raj-Sankar added that the fight for equality sometimes feels hopeless.

“Yeah, I’m angry,” she said. “I am really angry — all the time. But I want to be able to do something with that anger. I don’t want to just stand up here and say there will be change without being the one to put my feet on the ground and do something about it.”

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtually all abortions are now criminalized in Arizona after a judge reinstated an 1864 ban

A near-total ban on abortion in Arizona that was written in 1864 but has been blocked since 1973 can now be enforced, a Pima County judge ruled late Friday afternoon, criminalizing almost every abortion in the Grand Canyon State.

In August, Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the court to lift an injunction stopping enforcement of the territorial-era ban, which was implemented after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that women have a constitutional right to abortion services in Roe v. Wade. But those rights were reversed in June, when the high court overturned Roe.

On Friday afternoon, Judge Kellie Johnson sided with the state and said the law, which had been reauthorized by Arizona’s legislature in 1901 and again in 1977, can no longer be blocked. It outlaws all abortions except when the woman’s life is in danger, though it’s unclear exactly what that means. It contains no exceptions for pregnancies arising from rape or incest.

Health care providers who violate the law face between two and five years in prison. The ban was first enacted in 1864, a year after Arizona became a territory and nearly 50 years before Arizona became a state in 1912.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona had asked the court to rule that legislation passed since Roe regulating abortion should take precedence, including a 15-week abortion ban signed by Gov. Doug Ducey earlier this year. That law was set to take effect this Saturday, and Ducey had said he believed it ought to override the Civil War-era ban.

But Johnson concluded that Arizona lawmakers — the legislature has been controlled by Republicans for decades — had consistently said that abortion regulations were never intended to grant a right to abortion in the state, and even the 15-week ban passed this year specifically said it was not intended to supersede the 1864 abortion ban if Roe was overturned.

Anti-abortion advocates celebrated the win. Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, a Christian lobbying group that advocates against abortion access, called it a signal to shift towards providing women resources for dealing with unplanned pregnancies. She called the ruling a triumph for the right to life.

“Abortion ends one life and puts the woman at risk of physical and emotional harm. Arizona’s abortion law effectively affirms that life is a human right and should not be sacrificed unless the mother’s life is at risk,” she said in a written statement.

Brnovich hailed the decision on Twitter, praising it for its protection of unborn children in the state.

“We applaud the court for upholding the will of the legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue. I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans,” he tweeted.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona, which oversees four of the nine clinics in the state that provide abortion services, said that Johnson’s decision flouted dozens of more recent laws which clearly allowed abortion in the state. Brittany Fonteno, the organization’s president and CEO, promised to continue fighting for access in Arizona and criticized the total ban as dated and out of touch with current public sentiment.

“Today’s ruling by the Pima county superior court has the practical and deplorable result of sending Arizonans back nearly 150 years. No archaic law should dictate our reproductive freedom and how we live our lives today. We know that today’s ruling does not reflect the will of the people, as Arizonans are overwhelmingly in favor of abortion access,” Fonteno said in an emailed statement.

A poll from earlier this year found that as much as 90% of Arizonans agreed that family planning should be a choice free from political interference, and as much as 80% were against laws that threatened fines or jail time for doctors providing care that patients requested.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona added that outlawing abortion would not reduce the need for the procedure, just force women to leave the state and deepen racial and economic inequalities. In the past decade, resident abortions in the state have steadily hovered around 13,000 per year.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs, who has previously called the abortion ban “draconian” and vowed to use her veto power to reject future legislation restricting abortion if she were elected, said in a statement that the ruling would put women across the state in danger by forcing doctors to reconsider potentially life-saving care.

“Medical professionals will now be forced to think twice and call their lawyer before providing patients with oftentimes necessary, lifesaving care. When politicians think they know better and don’t allow doctors to do their jobs, patients suffer,” she said.

Hobbs’ opponent, Republican Kari Lake, has has called abortion the “execution” of babies and said she would enforce the territorial ban.

In an emailed statement, EMILY’s List, a pro-abortion organization which works to help fund the campaigns of women for political offices, lamented the decision, and called for electing pro-choice Democrats in the upcoming midterms.

“This ruling is a tragic and timely reminder of the importance of electing Democratic pro-choice women up and down the ballot in Arizona…We know that these pro-choice champions will not give up even in the face of dangerous abortion bans like this one, and EMILY’s List will continue supporting them on their path to office,” read the statement.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Tucson vets slam Senate candidate Blake Masters

A group of Tucson veterans fired back at Blake Masters’ incendiary comments on the military this week, saying he isn’t a fit representative for the more than half a million veterans in the state.

“A man like Blake Masters, who has no respect for our service – he has no business representing us anywhere, let alone at the U.S. Senate,” said Air Force veteran Sylvia Gonzalez Andersh, during a press event Thursday afternoon organized by the Arizona Democratic Party.

Andersh is a member of #WeAreCommonDefense, a progressive veterans group, and was part of a group of five veterans who resigned from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s veterans advisory council in protest last year.

The event on Thursday was small, with only seven veterans and a few reporters in attendance.

During the event Andersh pointed to recently revealed emails Masters wrote about 9/11, and the ensuing Iraq war as proof that he lacks respect for service members. The emails were sent while Masters was in college, and in them he defended the right to disseminate conspiracy theories about 9/11 and questioned the “story we’ve been told” about the tragic event.

“Thousands of Americans lost their lives on that horrible day. And many, too many, of my fellow men and women paid the ultimate price in the conflicts that followed. With his words, Blake Masters dishonors their service and he dishonors their memory,” Andersh said, her voice breaking.

The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate hasn’t confined his inflammatory remarks to college emails, though. Master has several times called for a wholesale firing of military leaders since he began campaigning last year. In November, Masters released a campaign video on Twitter calling military leaders “incompetent” and “woke corporate bozos.”

Don Womack, a former Marine and Vietnam War veteran, said he was in disbelief after hearing the comments. They amount to insults against the rank and file, Womack said, and are especially offensive given Masters himself has never served.

“At the end of the day, what Masters has said is nothing short of disgraceful. His comments are nothing short of a personal attack on me and every other veteran and military family who has sacrificed to serve our country,” he said.

For Sue Ritz, a retired National Guard Master Sergeant with 24 years of service under her belt, the contrast between Masters and the previous men who held the seat he’s vying for is stark. Masters is running against incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly, who flew combat missions in the Gulf War, to fill an office previously held by the late Sen. John McCain, who was a naval officer and a prisoner of war for five years during the Vietnam War.

“Listening to a guy like Blake Masters insult our military while running against Mark Kelly, a Navy combat pilot, for the seat once occupied by the great Senator John McCain – well that’s an insult to everyone,” she said.

Ritz allowed that criticism of the military isn’t unwelcome in a country that values the First Amendment right to free speech, but reiterated that Masters, with his lack of a service record and disrespectful comments, isn’t the one to do it. If he really wants to effect change, Ritz said, he should join up.

“He’s still young enough to join. If he’s got so many things he’s going to do to change the military – he’s 35 years old, there’s a recruiting station I can take him to right now and he can join the Army National Guard today,” she said.

Masters’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Maricopa poll workers undergo de-escalation training following conspiracy theories about Arizona elections

Voter distrust in elections has spiked as conspiracy theories abound, but poll workers continue to show up and keep elections running in Maricopa County.

As many as 90% of positions during the August primary election were filled, said Scott Jarrett, the county’s elections director, and the majority have signaled they’d like to return for the upcoming midterms on Nov. 8.

The county operates elections with the help of more than 3,000 poll workers, the bulk of them at voting locations, and around 600 of whom staff the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center, where they sort and count ballots. All of them must be registered voters in Maricopa County and undergo a minimum of 5 hours of training. Positions with supervisorial responsibilities train for over 20 hours.

A new component of the training, introduced after the 2020 elections, is a de-escalation curriculum to help poll workers stay safe and ensure that voters have a successful experience. It wasn’t developed in response to the spread of baseless allegations of fraud in the 2020 elections, Jarrett said, but rather to streamline the voting process. It does, however, assuage the fears of some poll workers and is valuable in light of the increase in hostility against election workers.

While fortunately emergencies stemming from voter harassment of poll workers haven’t yet occurred in the county, Jarrett said that his department still deals with disinformation campaigns. The counting of ballots at MCTEC is live streamed online and some out-of-context video clips have been posted on blogs, falsely labeled as proof of nefarious actions. To debunk false election information, the county has developed a webpage with common questions entitled Just The Facts. Jarrett invites people who remain skeptical about the election process to get involved.

“There’s no better way if they have trust issues with the process than to come work for us and get familiar with the inner workings of elections,” he said.

The people who choose to spend long days directing voters or sorting through ballots are committed to roles that not many are jumping at the chance for, Jarrett said. Election Day for poll workers starts at 5:30 a.m. and lasts past the 7 p.m. voting deadline, after they’ve finished properly packing up and delivering ballots in tamper evident sealed boxes and canvas bags. Workers assigned to MCTEC are on deck as early as 5 weeks before Election Day, processing early ballots, which nearly 90% of Arizonans use. They don’t take home much compensation for it, either: pay starts at $12.80 an hour and goes up to $20 an hour.

“Every single one of them is dedicating their service to voters. They’re some of the most passionate and hardworking people,” Jarrett said.

The requirement to be registered to vote in Maricopa County means that all poll workers are local residents. Only high school students with permission from their schools are allowed to participate without being registered to vote, due to their age, but even they have to live in the area. Poll workers, in the end, are simply neighbors.

“There’s probably not a neighborhood in Maricopa County that doesn’t have someone who’s worked for us. Look at yourself, look at your family members. That’s who you’ll see that’s working at our voting locations,” Jarrett said.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.