GOP notches election law wins, Arizona Dem elections chief Hobbs flubs ballot as midterms near

Courts rule in Republicans' favor on poll challengers in Michigan, hand count in Nevada, absentee voting in New York.

Updated: October 26, 2022 - 11:06pm

Republicans have notched wins in a string of recent election law cases in Michigan, Nevada and New York and await a ruling on their lawsuits against Arizona's Maricopa County, with midterms just two weeks away.

In Michigan, the RNC and Michigan GOP won a significant election integrity lawsuit filed on Sept. 30 against Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over new restrictions she imposed on poll challengers.

The restrictions included a new credential form, an "artificial deadline" for appointing them, and limiting the poll workers with whom the challengers may communicate, according to the RNC.

The Michigan Court of Claims' "ruling is a massive victory for election integrity, the rule of law, and Michigan voters," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a press release Thursday. "Jocelyn Benson not only disregarded Michigan election law in issuing this guidance, she also violated the rights of political parties and poll challengers to fully ensure transparency and promote confidence that Michigan elections are run fairly and lawfully. This legal win will help deliver the transparency at the ballot box that Michiganders deserve with midterm elections in 19 days."

The secretary of state's office plans to appeal the ruling to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

"Michigan elections require tens of thousands of officials, employees and volunteers to all work in concert in service of the millions of citizens casting ballots and in its role overseeing this complex and decentralized system statewide, the Michigan Bureau of Elections has always provided clear and detailed instruction for interaction among all participants to ensure legal compliance, transparency, and equal treatment of all voters," said spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office Jake Rollow.

In Nevada on Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled that Nye County could hand-count all paper ballots for the midterm elections but that the ongoing tally must be kept secret until the final results are tabulated. The hand count of mail-in ballots will start on Oct. 26 and be in addition to the machine tally that takes place on Election Day.

The court partially ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued, among other reasons, to block a livestream of the process. Lawyers representing Nye County said the county "fully intends to comply" with the court's ruling and will not release video recording of the hand count until the polls close.

In New York on Friday, Republican Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice Dianne Freestone ruled that it is unconstitutional to allow voting by mail based on fears of COVID-19. She said the Democrat-controlled New York state Legislature "appears poised to continue the expanded absentee voting provisions of New York State Election Law ... in an Orwellian perpetual state of health emergency and cloaked in the veneer of 'voter enfranchisement.'"

Ballots that have already been mailed aren't invalidated by the ruling, but local election boards must stop counting the absentee ballots already received and "preserve" them until after Election Day or until there is a resolution of the lawsuit filed by Republicans. New York state Democratic leaders have already appealed the ruling.

Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Arizona filed two lawsuits against Maricopa County, arguing that the county's policies would favor Democratic poll workers over Republicans in the upcoming election.

Maricopa County hired 857 Democratic poll workers and just 712 Republicans this election season. Arguing this imbalance violates state law, the Republican organizations demand an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, District 3, and County Recorder Stephen Richer rejected claims that the county did anything wrong.

"The idea that a Republican Recorder and four Republican board members would try to keep Republicans out of elections is absurd," they wrote in a joint statement on behalf of the County Elections Command Center. "We contact everyone on the lists the parties provide us. Maricopa County's temporary election worker hiring practices ensure bipartisan representation throughout the election process and follow requirements established in state law and the Elections Procedures Manual."

Last week, meanwhile, the office of Arizona Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor, sent out as many as 6,000 mail ballots listing only federal races.

Hobbs said the mistake was the result of a database glitch, that it impacted less than a quarter of 1% of voters, and that the problem has been corrected. She also said affected voters would receive the correct ballot shortly.

Arizona residents who register to vote but do not have proof of citizenship are ineligible to vote in state elections, following a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state could not require documentary proof of citizenship for people to vote in federal elections. Those without the citizenship documentation are registered as "federal only" voters.

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