Judge denies GOP request for extended hours after voting machine failure in Arizona’s largest county

A last-minute effort by Republicans to force polling hours in Arizona to be extended by three hours was rejected late Thursday by a local judge.

“A judge denied on Tuesday evening the Republicans’ effort to extend poll hours and delay the release of early ballot numbers on Election Day in Arizona’s largest county,” according to local station KTVK.

“The judge rejected the notion that people in Maricopa County were denied their ability to vote because of tabulation machine issues. The poll hours will stick with ending at 7 p.m. and early ballot results will be released around 8 p.m,” the station reported late Tuesday.

Earlier that day, a coalition of Republicans — including the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, and Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake — sued, demanding the hours be extended.

The lawsuit was filed after reports emerged of voting machine problems in Maricopa County:

“Just a few hours into Election Day, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer told reporters that about 20% of electronic vote tabulation machines in the state’s most populous county were malfunctioning, and technicians were being deployed to fix them,” Reuters reported.

“The problem was that ballots were not lining up properly inside the machines and were not being read, Richer said, adding that despite the problems all votes would be counted. Richer called the malfunctions ‘disappointing,'” according to Reuters.

The problems reportedly affected 60 machines, and by 2:00 pm, only 17 of the 60 had been fixed. Worried that voters might turn up to vote, be unable to vote, and be forced to return home until later, Republicans decided to file suit.

“The widespread malfunctions with tabulation machines and printers in Maricopa County, affecting over 25% of the polling places in the county at times today, were absolutely unacceptable, an embarrassment to the state of Arizona, and a violation of the civil rights of Arizona citizens,” Lake’s attorney, Harmeet K. Dhillon, said in a statement.

“Kari Lake has said from Day One of this campaign that she will not stop fighting for free and fair elections to ensure every legal vote is counted. We joined this lawsuit to ensure that every single voter has a chance to have their vote legally counted and that no Arizona voter is disenfranchised because of Maricopa County’s incompetence,” she added.

The RNC joined the suit soon after.

“The RNC is joining a Republican coalition to file an emergency motion to extend poll hours in Maricopa County because voting machines in over 25% of voting locations have experienced significant issues,” RNC chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

“The widespread issues – in an election administered by Democrat Secretary of State Katie Hobbs – are completely unacceptable, especially as Republicans flock to the polls to vote in-person on Election Day. We have dozens of attorneys and thousands of volunteers on the ground working to solve this issue and ensure that Arizona voters have the chance to make their voices heard,” she added.

Lake’s opponent, current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, remained quiet about the lawsuit. However, Masters’ opponent, incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly, reportedly “intervened” to argue against extending voting hours.

“Kelly’s campaign intervened in the case in order to oppose the plea,” according to Politico.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Ryan ultimately ruled against the suit late Tuesday on the basis that nobody had been disenfranchised. It appears he was correct.

Local station KPNX notes that although the tabulation machines stopped working, “[t]he error didn’t cause ballots to be misread, and other methods were made available for voters to return their ballots.”

Axios further notes that “[v]oters whose ballots were rejected were instructed to deposit their ballots in a box so they could be transported to the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC)” and that “[t]he affected ballots will be counted by the central tabulators at MCTEC on Wednesday.”

There was reportedly also no reason to believe that Democrats were responsible for the polling place hiccups.

“Although Katie Hobbs is the secretary of state, she is not directly administering the Maricopa County election. Arizona uses a decentralized election system, meaning each County is responsible for conducting its own election. And in Maricopa County, 4 of the 5 members of the Board of Supervisors who oversee elections are Republicans,” KPNX  notes.

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