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Arizona GOP wins state high court appeal of sanctions for 2020 election challenge

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court has reversed lower court rulings that held the Arizona Republican Party responsible for more than $27,000 in sanctions and Secretary of State office attorney fees spent defending Maricopa County election procedures following the 2020 election.

“Even if done inadvertently and with the best of intentions, such sanctions present a real and present danger to the rule of law,” Justice John Lopez wrote in the unanimous decision issued Thursday.

The Arizona Republican Party hailed the ruling, saying in a statement it “reaffirms the fundamental legal principle that raising questions about the interpretation and application of election laws is a legitimate use of the judicial system, not a groundless or bad faith action.”

The case stemmed from a state GOP lawsuit alleging that Maricopa County improperly conducted a required hand-count of the accuracy of ballots from samples of votes cast at centers open to all county voters, not from precincts.

The county examination of some ballots showed its machine counts were 100% accurate, and the results of routine post-election tests also affirmed the accuracy of counting machines.

A Maricopa County judge dismissed the case in March 2021, declaring the Republican Party lawsuit groundless and saying it was brought in bad faith. He awarded over $18,000 in attorney’s fees to the Secretary of State’s office.

A state Court of Appeals panel upheld that decision in April 2023 and assessed another $9,000 in sanctions against the GOP.

The high court did not overturn dismissal of the case. But it found the lower courts erred in finding the case was groundless.

“Petitioning our courts to clarify the meaning and application of our laws … particularly in the context of our elections,” the Supreme Court said, “is never a threat to the rule of law, even if the claims are charitably characterized as ‘long shots.’ ”

The Associated Press


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