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The Arizona Attorney General is demanding answers to printer issues on Election Day

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Arizona’s Republican attorney general has demanded answers from Maricopa County about widespread printer problems plaguing Election Day voting, creating new uncertainty in a fraught post-election dynamic just days before the county is due to certify the results.

The investigation raises tensions between Maricopa County and outgoing Republican Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, who was investigating county officials following the 2020 election. Brnovich’s office wants answers from district officials before they file their final election results later this month. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

A four-page document, issued Saturday on letterhead from Brnovich’s office, contains criticisms of the administration of the province’s elections, but no findings that could call into question the outcome. Republican candidates lost the state’s most critical contests, including those for senator and governor.

Early on Election Day, printers at 70 of the county’s 223 polling stations began producing ballots with ink that was too light to be read by vote-counting machines, county officials said. That forced voters to wait in line, travel to another location or deposit their ballots in secure boxes that were transferred to downtown Phoenix and counted there.

County leaders have yet to explain what caused the problems, saying they will conduct a comprehensive review once the voting list is complete. But they claim that no one was denied the right to vote. An Arizona judge came to the same conclusion by denying a request by Republicans to extend voting hours on Election Day in light of the mechanical flaws.

But the Election Day issues, now being brought up by the state’s top law enforcement official, are likely to fuel Republican efforts to contest the outcome of the election, especially the razor-thin margin in the election, according to top lawyers associated with both. race for attorney general. parties, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to share candid assessments of an ongoing legal matter. Democrats say they believe the claims will be unfounded.

In the attorney general’s race, which seems destined for a recount, Democrat Kris Mayes led her Republican opponent, Abe Hamadeh, by just 850 votes as of Sunday. Hamadeh has promised to detain people involved in the 2020 elections. According to people familiar with the situation, his campaign has been exploring legal options in conjunction with national Republicans and Kari Lake advisers. Lake, the GOP nominee for governor, was expected to have lost her race last Monday and trailed by more than 17,000 votes as of Sunday.

Lake has refused to budge, citing widespread printer failures to claim her supporters were “disenfranchised”. Her campaign has posted video testimonials from supporters describing experiencing the outages, though some conclude by saying they were able to cast their vote.

A Washington Post analysis found that the voting locations affected by the issues were not overwhelmingly Republican. The analysis found that the proportion of registered Republicans in the affected counties, about 37 percent, is virtually the same as the proportion of registered Republicans in the entire county, which is 35 percent.

Now an election integrity unit within Brnovich’s office has exerted its influence. The embattled unit, created by Republican lawmakers after the 2018 midterm elections won Democrats top to bottom, has drawn criticism from election deniers and the political right at large for not adequately highlighting fraud, and from the left for using public funds to fuel misinformation about voting.

In the Saturday letter, an assistant attorney general who directs the unit wrote that it had “received hundreds of complaints since Election Day regarding the administration of the 2020 general election in Maricopa County.”

The letter is addressed to Tom Liddy, the county’s chief civil litigator. It is requesting a report detailing the problems with the printers, including which voting sites were affected and how county representatives determined that printer configuration settings were causing the ink problems. It asks for a “comprehensive log of all changes” to the settings.

Liddy declined to discuss the letter on Sunday, saying he had to meet with district officials charged with overseeing the election.

“We in Maricopa County are still awaiting the completed report from the Attorney General of his ongoing investigation into the 2020 election,” Liddy said in a brief phone interview. “I’m a bit surprised that he’s getting ready to start it in 2022 when he hasn’t finished the first one yet, but I wish him the best.”

Bill Gates, the Republican chairman of the county board, declined to comment.

The attorney general’s office also asks for information in the letter about people who may not have checked out properly at a polling station after the trouble, potentially preventing them from voting elsewhere. And the letter raises concerns that ballots deposited in the secure boxes known as “Door 3” may have been mixed with other ballots, which the letter describes as a violation of legal guidelines.

County officials have acknowledged isolated incidents where different batches of ballots were combined, but said protocols, conducted with observers from both political parties present, included checking the total number of ballots at check-ins at voting locations.

The letter calls for a response before Nov. 28, the deadline for the county to certify the results of the election. State certification is scheduled for December 5.

The assistant attorney general who signed the letter is Jennifer Wright, a lawyer whose 2011 bid for Phoenix mayor was supported by tea party activists. From 2010 to 2014, Wright co-chaired Verify the Vote Arizona and worked closely with True the Vote, a Texas-based organization that has made unconfirmed claims of rampant voter fraud across the country.

Brnovich, the Attorney General, affirmed the legitimacy of the 2020 election despite pressure from then-President Donald Trump to back Trump’s false allegations of widespread voter fraud. But as a failed candidate in the GOP primaries for the U.S. Senate this year, Brnovich highlighted his agency’s work on election integrity, claiming it raised “serious concerns.” His office has prosecuted about 20 voter fraud cases in the past three years in a state with more than 4 million voters.

Days before the November election, Brnovich made his blunt comments yet about candidates denying Trump’s loss, calling them “clowns” engaged in a “gigantic battle.” County leaders last week approved moving forward with a lawsuit against Brnovich’s office over its alleged failure to provide public records stemming from the state’s investigation into them.

In the days since the November 8 midterm elections, Republicans have been vague about potential lawsuits.

A legal expert said that even if Republicans try to use Brnovich’s letter to advance their efforts to challenge the outcome of close races, it should have no implications for approving the results.

“It’s nothing legally,” said Tom Irvine, a now-retired attorney with four decades of suffrage experience who represented Maricopa County in the 1990s and 2000s.

“There is no evidence that anyone was wronged,” said Irvine, a Democrat.

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