Judge to Hear Challenge to Arizona Presidential Primary

April 19, 2016 Updated: April 19, 2016

PHOENIX—A Maricopa County judge is set to hold a hearing on a lawsuit seeking to have the results of Arizona’s presidential primary thrown out.

The hearing set for Tuesday before Judge David Gass comes as the Arizona attorney general’s office want the case dismissed. It argues state law doesn’t allow the March 22 election results to be contested.

The attorney general, representing Secretary of State Michele Reagan, said in a court filing that there were problems with the election and Reagan wants to see them fixed, but state law doesn’t allow the legal challenge to proceed.

“The contest statutes only apply to specific categories of elections, and the presidential preference election does not fall within the scope” of those laws, the filing by Assistant Attorney General James Driscoll-MacEachron said.

The legal challenge was prompted in part by long lines at polling places in Maricopa County that some believe led to widespread voter suppression.

A lawyer for John Brakey, a Tucson man trying to have the results thrown out, called the state argument “silly.” Brakey co-founded a group called AUDIT-AZ that focuses on issues of election integrity.

“If you read between the lines, what they’re saying is ‘well, this presidential preference election wasn’t a real election, it was just this mock election,'” attorney Michael Kielsky said Monday. “We can do it right, we can do it wrong, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.”

Kielsky said he believes all the laws that cover other elections also apply in this case.

Tuesday’s hearing is expected to be only the first in the case if Gass allows the case to proceed.

The lawsuit alleges voter registration requests were mishandled and the number of polling places in Maricopa County was improperly cut. Kielsky said he believes the long lines in Maricopa County depressed voter turnout by 12 percent.

A separate lawsuit was filed last week in federal court by the state and national Democratic parties and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

It calls for court oversight for voting location choices in future Maricopa County elections and a ban on failing to count otherwise-valid ballots cast in an incorrect precinct. It also seeks to overturn a recently enacted law making it a felony in most cases to collect someone else’s early ballot.

The county has acknowledged it made mistakes in how it operated the primary by dramatically cutting the number of polling places and widely underestimating Election Day turnout.

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into whether the county violated voting-rights laws.