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Judge dismisses Hamadeh's 3rd attempt to overturn 2022 election results

Abraham Hamadeh
Abraham Hamadeh for Attorney General
Abraham Hamadeh

A judge on Tuesday dismissed a claim by Abe Hamadeh that his constitutional rights were violated in the 2022 race for attorney general that he lost as nothing more than a too-late election challenge.

The Republican, who is now running for Congress, is zero-for-three in his efforts to overturn his loss to Democrat Kris Mayes or an least get an election do-over.

In an extensive ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney said it may be that Hamadeh has valid claims about problems with the election. These include problems with printers at Maricopa County voting centers that resulted in long lines that Hamadeh argues resulted in some voters simply walking away.

More to the point, Hamadeh and his legal allies at AZ Voters Rights said these dissuaded voters were more likely to have been Republicans. And that, he said, could have changed the results of the race he officially lost to Mayes by 280 votes.

All that, he charged, violated his rights of equal protection and due process. And that, said attorney Ryan Heath, provides legal grounds to set aside the certified results and order Maricopa County to re-do the election.

But all that, said Blaney, is legally irrelevant.

"This case is actually an untimely election contest," the judge said, no matter how it's dressed up as a violation of constitutional rights.

"Any action contesting a state election must be filed within five days after completion of the canvass of the election and declaration of the result thereof by the secretary of state or the governor," said Blaney. That would have been in the first week of December 2022; the case was filed in November 2023.

As to the delay in filing, Heath had an excuse for that.

He argued that it was not until former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor's April 2023 report about what caused ballot printer issues that contributed to long lines at polling places in Maricopa County that Hamadeh learned what led to what he called disenfranchised voters, mainly Republicans.

That, Heath told Blaney, should compel him to override the law putting strict time limits on election challenges. He said such laws are unconstitutional.

In his ruling Tuesday, Blaney acknowledged there is a "discovery rule" under Arizona law. In essence, it says that the five-day limit in this case does not begin to run until someone knew or should have known the facts in the case.

But the judge said that doesn't help Hamadeh given that the McGregor report was published on April 10, 2023.

"Plaintiffs cannot reasonable argue that they were unaware of the facts underlying the present case after issuance of that report," Blaney wrote. "But plaintiffs waited another seven months before filing this special action."

There was no immediate response from either Hamadeh or Heath.

Blaney said he is "initially reluctant" to order the candidate to pay penalties for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

"Plaintiffs' constitutional claims were novel and although unsuccessful, appear to have not been groundless," the judge wrote.

That is far different than a ruling earlier this year by another judge who tossed out Hamadeh's claim, also filed by Heath, that Mayes is holding office illegally. The judge imposed more than $200,000 in legal fees on the candidate, his lawyers and political supporters who were part of the lawsuit.

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.