Judge dismisses Borrelli’s electoral lawsuit for not handing over the defendants

An election lawsuit filed by Lake Havasu Republican Sonny Borrelli challenging the election of Katie Hobbs as Arizona governor was dismissed Friday afternoon.

But the Mohave County judge hearing the case is allowing the portion of the lawsuit related to ballot signature verification in Maricopa County to proceed as a civil case, with a much more relaxed schedule than election challenges. , which are accelerated.

borrelli filed the lawsuit Monday, on behalf of Mohave County voters, who he says were disenfranchised for the illegal use of artificial intelligence to verify signatures on ballot envelopes in Maricopa County at the midterm of 2022.


In the lawsuit, Phoenix attorney Ryan Heath, who represents voters in Borrelli and Mohave counties, wrote that the use of third-party artificial intelligence software to perform initial scans and give a verification rating to the signatures of voters in Maricopa County led untrained workers to accept incorrect signatures. He argues that the number of mismatched signature ballots accepted in Maricopa County because AI disenfranchised Mohave County voters by “diluting” the impact of their votes.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer refuted this in a statement to the Arizona Republic.

“Maricopa County has never used artificial intelligence to verify signatures on advance ballot envelopes. All signatures are verified by humans, both at the initial review level and at the manager level,” Richer said in the statement.

Heath wrote that the impact of the allegedly erroneously accepted signatures was so great that it influenced the results of the gubernatorial race. Republican Kari Lake lost that race to Democrat Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes.

Heath is the president and CEO of The Hammer Projectwhich describes itself as an “anti-wake legal non-profit organization.”

Hobbs and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, along with other county officials who were named defendants in the lawsuit, have not had an opportunity to officially refute the claims because they have not yet received subpoenas in the lawsuit.

No one from the Board of Supervisors attended Friday’s hearing and Andy Gaona, a lawyer representing Hobbs as secretary of state, said he only found out about the court date because a reporter told him.

“This is a fundamental breach by the plaintiffs of the statutes,” Gaona said.

Heath blamed his failure to notify the defendants in a timely manner to an automatically created subpoena that incorrectly gave the defendants 20 days instead of five to respond. Heath said it took him several days to correct the error and advised the judge not to worry about the defendants not being notified.

Gaona called that “ridiculous” and called for the case to be dismissed, especially considering that Heath made no effort to contact any of the defendants to inform them of the case and explain the delay in serving them with the subpoenas.

Heath said he wanted to make sure the subpoenas included the correct time frame to respond, because he believed that if they didn’t, the defendants would take the opportunity to drag out the case.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen countered that Heath was wrong, because Gaona had been served with a subpoena in another contest case that also had the wrong number of days to respond, and quickly responded, Janzen said.

“It’s a mistake on your part to think that’s what would have happened,” Jantzen told Heath.

Jantzen also noted that plaintiffs in other election cases in his courtroom had the same problem with their subpoenas, but served them anyway.

Heath asked for a five-day extension of the race schedule, to give him time to notify the defendants, but Jantzen denied it, saying that under state law there simply wouldn’t be enough time to pursue the case.

Jantzen planned to be out of office next week and has no background in artificial intelligence, he said, meaning there would need to be lengthy expert testimony on the subject before an informed decision can be made in the case.

In Arizona, lawsuits challenging election results cannot be filed until the the results are certified by the state, and this year that happened on December 5th. Cases are expedited in court, with strictly prescribed deadlines, as newly elected officials take office in January.

“I am specifically finding that we cannot process a contested election case within this time frame,” Jantzen said. “It is no longer possible to do this before the end of the year.”

Jantzen added that removing the part of the lawsuit related to voting practices in Maricopa County from the part challenging the results of the gubernatorial race would give Heath and Borrelli more time to serve the subpoenas on the defendants. ​and prepare your case in another way.

In the part of the case unrelated to the gubernatorial race, Heath requested a jury trial; he demanded that the court outlaw the use of third-party signature verification software on Arizona ballot affidavits; asked the court to bar Maricopa County from “using untested third-party software providers and AI to determine the validity of ballot affidavit signatures”; and order that Arizona extend the time allowed after the election for signature verification.

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