UPDATE: On Thursday, Aug. 24, one week after the lawsuit was filed, the Arizona Supreme Court dismissed the case.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Aug. 17, 255 days after Arizona certified its 2022 midterm election results, two Arizona voters filed a fringe lawsuit seeking to invalidate the results of the election.
The lawsuit was filed by a self-proclaimed “Civil Rights Activist” Ryan Heath, the president of “an Anti-Woke non-profit” who filed two unsuccessful election lawsuits after the 2022 midterms. One lawsuit sought to compel a judge to issue an order that would remove Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) from office and one alleged that “biased” and inaccurate “artificial intelligence software” used to verify signatures on mail-in ballots cast in Maricopa County violated Arizona law and the U.S. Constitution. Both lawsuits sought to invalidate the 2022 midterm election results in Arizona and were promptly dismissed.
The plaintiffs in the most recent lawsuit are also not strangers to election subversion. One of the plaintiffs is current Cochise County Supervisor Tom Crosby (R) and although he filed the lawsuit in his personal capacity, as a Cochise County voter, it is quite extraordinary that a sitting county official is seeking to overturn election results far beyond the certification of the 2022 election.
Before, during and after the 2022 midterm elections, Cochise County (a small red county in Arizona) was embroiled in controversy and faced several lawsuits after the county supervisors attempted different hand counts, sued their own election director, refused to certify the results of the election and transferred election oversight to the partisan county recorder.
Crosby led the effort to descend the county’s elections into chaos by voting to conduct an illegal hand count of all early mail-in ballots, refusing to certify the 2022 election results and filing a lawsuit against his own colleague who later resigned citing an “outrageous and physically and emotionally threatening” working atmosphere. The other plaintiff, David Mast, previously submitted an amicus brief in Kari Lake’s election contest arguing that the 2022 election results for Arizona governor should be “set aside.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the brief was written by Heath.
The plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit allege that Maricopa County failed to “uniformly apply signature verification standards for a material number of approximately 1.3 million votes” by comparing voters’ signatures on their mail-in ballots to voters’ most recent signatures instead of the registration record. They argue that Maricopa County’s signature verification protocol resulted in the “inclusion of illegal votes in Maricopa County” and therefore “diluted” the strength of the plaintiffs’ votes.
Mast and Crosby argue the alleged “inconsistent application” of Maricopa County’s signature verification plan means that Maricopa County voters “did not have their votes subjected to the same level of scrutiny” as those in other counties and therefore Maricopa County’s signature verification practice violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the Arizona Constitution.
The plaintiffs argue that a “recount using proper verification” would be a necessary remedy but that is now impossible. Instead, they contend that the “only appropriate remedy—as a matter of law—is to set aside all state–wide results of the 2022 Maricopa County election and strike such from the 2022 Arizona General Election Canvass.” In turn, the plaintiffs request that the Arizona Supreme Court declare Maricopa County’s signature verification practice in violation of the 14th Amendment and the Arizona Constitution and ask for a recount of all mail-in ballots in Maricopa County, decertification of the 2022 statewide election results in Maricopa County or a court order requiring Maricopa County to conduct a new election.
During the 2022 midterm elections, Arizona was a hotbed for election denialism. Even in August of 2023, it is evident that conspiracy theories and disinformation are pervasive in right-wing legal circles. While we do not know what the outcome of this case will be, it is worth noting that both Heath and Crosby’s efforts to subvert democracy in both the courtroom and the boardroom have been dismissed and repudiated at every turn.