Election 2020 Protests Phoenix

Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward, speaks as U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., listens during an Arizona Republican Party news conference, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Phoenix.

(The Center Square) – The fate of a narrow challenge about potentially uncounted votes in Maricopa County now lies in the hands of a circuit judge. 

Attorneys for Donald Trump’s campaign had filed the lawsuit Saturday in Maricopa County Circuit Court, alleging “thousands” of ballots may have been overvoted, thus partly disqualified. 

The claim appeared minimized by testimony from Scott Jarrett, Maricopa County's Director of Election Day and Emergency Voting, who said they had so far found 190 recorded overvotes. Trump continues to trail Democrat Joe Biden by more than 10,000 votes.

Jarrett referenced a report about overvotes in 2016, showing 1.3% of presidential votes were overvoted. By comparison, election officials had so far found 190, or 0.2%. Trump’s lawyers estimate 950 ballots were overvoted on a partisan race; 191 of those overvotes were for the presidential race.

Should the overvoted ballots need to be recounted, Jarrett said the entire batches they were included in would need to be recounted, something he said would be a “laborious process.” Maricopa poll workers are in the process of getting ballots to be canvassed for final certification.

Kory Langhofer, a lawyer for Trump, said election procedures weren’t followed in handling the overvotes.

“When there’s an overvote, it needs to go to the board,” he said. “The number of votes at issue in this, we’re taking the county’s word that they’re not higher. This is a modest claim that we’re making about counting votes equally. It is not about fraud. This is a narrow claim about a good-faith failure to measure those votes correctly.” 

Langhofer stressed that they weren’t looking for a recount.

Roopali Desai, counsel for Arizona's Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, said they had yet to hear about a single unintentional overvote. 

“The county and secretary of state have succeeded despite unprecedented events,” she said. 

County attorney Thomas Liddy accused the GOP of moving the goalposts. 

“It's not enough just to find a mistake in Guadalupe or to list a mistake in Cave Creek,” he said. “That's not enough. It has to be systematic error in order to get relief. We have heard demonstrable evidence that it is impossible.”

One of the GOP’s witnesses, Laura Christians, told the judge that a poll worker simply “pressed the green button” after the tabulating machine rejected her ballot, which accepts the ballot with a potential overvote. This wouldn’t have allowed her to reconcile a mistaken overvote. She made clear that the poll worker had made no indication that her ballot had been returned with an overvote. 

“I don’t know whether my vote counted or not,” she said.

Luciano Amoroso, who voted in Cave Creek on Election Day, said his ballot was kicked back out before indicating a double count. Before he could look at his ballot, he claimed the poll worker had pressed the button to accept the vote anyway.

"To be honest, I don’t know if my vote was even counted,” Amoroso said.

Witness Jim Joy was a poll watcher in Guadalupe. He claims he had witnessed “a couple dozen” voters place their ballots into the machine’s hopper and then be instructed by a poll worker to “push the button.” 

Judge Daniel Kiley earlier Thursday granted a request by the secretary of state’s office to toss several statements curated by the Trump campaign alleging poll worker wrongdoing, saying there was no way the statements could be verified.

Kelly Dixon, assistant director of Recruitment and Training for the county, testified for the state that the poll workers were told it was the voter who was to select the buttons on the tabulation machine. 

Gina Swoboda, a Trump campaign operations director, admitted that she lacked firsthand knowledge of a vote for Trump not being counted, rather stated she’s heard of many voters who believe their ballots were rejected. 

“I believe there were a lot of equipment issues on Nov. 3,” she said.  

Judge Kiley said he would have the decision soon. 

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois and Arizona government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Central Illinois and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.