May 3, 2024 - News

These are the 2020 election lawsuits cited in the Arizona fake electors indictment

Illustration of a campaign button with a gavel on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Some Republicans who were indicted for casting false electoral votes for former President Trump in Arizona have argued that the votes were a contingency to be in place in case ongoing litigation changed the outcome of the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Whether they intentionally cast fraudulent votes or were voting only as a contingency could be a major factor in the 11 fake electors' case.

What they're saying: Attorney Dennis Wilenchik, who represents elector Jim Lamon, told Axios, "If it ever goes to trial, it will be huge on criminal intent. There was none."

  • The other side: The indictment alleges the electors intended for former Vice President Pence to reject Joe Biden's electoral votes, regardless of the outcome of various 2020 election lawsuits.

The big picture: In all of the Arizona lawsuits still pending at the time the electors cast their votes on Dec. 14, the courts rejected the allegations.

Zoom in: Trump's campaign filed only one lawsuit after the 2020 election in Arizona, and a judge dismissed it after concluding it wouldn't reverse his loss here if successful.

  • The case ended a month before the fake electors met on Dec. 14 to cast their votes.

Yes, but: Several other Republican election-related lawsuits were still active at the time, and the indictment cited them:

Arizona Republican Party v. Fontes: The Arizona GOP alleged the Maricopa County Recorder's Office used an illegal method to select ballots for a mandatory post-election hand count audit.

  • A judge dismissed the case on Nov. 19, 2020, ruling the county's actions were legal.
  • The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday overturned sanctions that were imposed on the AZGOP and its attorneys, ruling that the allegations weren't groundless and were "at least fairly debatable, even if a 'long shot.'"

Aguilar v. Fontes: Two voters sued over concerns their ballots weren't properly counted by tabulation machines.

  • A Maricopa County judge dismissed the case on Nov. 20, 2020, finding they had no basis to sue.
  • The Arizona Court of Appeals dismissed their appeal.

Ward v. Jackson: Then-AZGOP chair Kelli Ward asked a judge to let her examine some mail-in ballot envelopes to attempt to prove election officials hadn't properly verified voters' signatures.

  • If successful, she planned to ask the courts to invalidate Arizona's presidential election results.
  • A judge granted Ward's request but dismissed the case on Dec. 4, 2020, after finding "no misconduct, no fraud, and no effect on the outcome of the election."
  • The Arizona Supreme Court rejected her appeal days later.

Bowyer v. Ducey: The Republican electors asked a federal judge to decertify Arizona's 2020 presidential election results.

  • The wide-ranging suit claimed Arizona's election was marred by illegally cast ballots, foreign espionage and other issues, some of which were based on anonymous sources.
  • In her dismissal order on Dec. 9, 2020, the judge found the allegations "sorely wanting of relevant or reliable evidence," among other problems.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept the case, and the electors' appeal to the 9th Circuit was dismissed in April 2021.

What's next: The defendants are scheduled to make their first court appearance May 21.

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