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Judge tosses out Abe Hamadeh's lawsuit challenging 2022 election results

A judge has tossed the latest bid by Abe Hamadeh and others to decertify the results of the 2022 election, order it rerun in Maricopa County and declare that Kris Mayes is holding the office of attorney general illegally.

And now he and his attorney are on the hook for paying the legal fees of the state and county officials he sued.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Susanna Pineda said there is no legal basis for claims by the failed Republican contender that Maricopa County improperly included some early ballots in its count of the 2022 election.

Hamadeh and attorney Ryan Heath claimed that meant the results of the election were "uncertain" because he lost by just 280 votes, seeking a declaration that Mayes "has usurped, intruded into or unlawfully holds or exercise the public office of attorney general.'' More to the point, they wanted the judge to order the state to install him as attorney general.

But Pineda wrote Hamadeh's claim is based on his belief that early ballots can be counted only if the signatures on the outside match the voter's "registration form." She said the Elections Procedures Manual actually allows signature verification to be based on the voter's "registration record."

The judge said while that isn't defined, the manual suggests that means far more than the actual signature when someone first signs up. It also includes signatures from voting rosters when people cast ballots in person and affidavits from envelopes from earlier elections, all of which are digitized.

And there's even a bigger problem, Pineda said.

"Challenges concerning alleged procedural violations of the election process must be brought prior to the actual election," the judge wrote.

She pointed out that Maricopa County had announced its ballot verification plans on May 1, 2022, six months before the election. The judge said if Hamadeh had a problem with the procedure, he should have brought it then.

And the judge also took a slap at Hamadeh and Heath for using a process known as "quo warranto," an action seeking a declaration that someone is holding office illegally. That is a legitimate procedure but one that, generally speaking, can only be brought by a person claiming to be the rightful officeholder.

"However, the person claiming title to the office must show that he is entitled to the office,'' the judge explained.

But in this case, she said, what Hamadeh sought actually was reverification of the 2022 Maricopa County mail-in ballots after "purging'' allegedly improper signature comparisons. Or, in the alternative, she said, he sought a new election.

"He surmises, without proof, that he received the most 'legal votes' for the office of attorney general,'' Pineda said. "That is insufficient to obtain the relief sought."

Hamadeh, however, is not giving up.

"Arizonans deserve accountability for the extreme failures in our election in November 2022," he said in a prepared statement, saying he will be "assessing our options with our legal team for this case."

This isn't Hamadeh's only legal bid to overturn his loss to Mayes.

He filed a separate challenge to his loss in Mohave County right after the 2022 election. But Judge Lee Jantzen rejected the bid and Hamadeh’s request for a new trial.

When Jantzen refused, Hamadeh took his case to the state Court of Appeals, which has yet to issue a ruling.

In ordering Hamadeh to pay the legal fees of those he sued, Pineda noted he raised the same signature verification issue in two prior cases "and he had lost the exact same issue before another superior court judge in the state." Here, she said, his decision to "mount a second identical challenge to the Maricopa County process is groundless and unjustified."

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