Right-Wing Group Files New Arizona Election Lawsuit After Withdrawing From Maricopa County

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Trump advisor Stephen Miller’s right wing legal group has filed a new lawsuit in Yavapai County, Arizona that is nearly identical to a previous lawsuit the group filed and withdrew in Maricopa County earlier this month.

Stephen Miller attends the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland, United States on February 23, 2024. (Photo by Zach Roberts/NurPhoto via AP)
Stephen Miller attends the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland, United States on February 23, 2024. (Photo by Zach Roberts/NurPhoto via AP)

The new lawsuit takes aim at the minutiae of election administration. 

Brought by America First Legal Foundation on behalf of Strong Communities Foundation of Arizona, Inc. and residents of Coconino, Yavapai and Maricopa counties, the lawsuit challenges a host of election procedures in the state. The new lawsuit is extremely similar to a previous lawsuit the group filed in Maricopa County — a Democratic stronghold and the country’s fourth most populous county — and subsequently withdrew.

While the lawsuit was filed in Yavapai County, it specifically singles out Maricopa County’s election practices and targets signature verification, chain of custody, vote center, voter registration cancellation, ballot cure and drop box policies. The plaintiffs allege that “For years” in Maricopa County specifically, election administrators “have consistently failed in their duties to administer elections lawfully and fairly.” 

In Maricopa County, early ballots received on Election Day are brought to the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC). They are not counted there but rather the number of ballots is estimated based on the number of ballot trays at the MCTEC. After this, the ballots are brought to another location for signature verification and counting. The complaint revives right-wing gripes with Maricopa County’s chain-of-custody procedures and argues that the county should not be using an estimate system for counting the number of ballots as they come into the MCTEC. 

The lawsuit alleges that the three counties illegally uses software for signature verification and argues that “human beings—and only human beings—may perform signature verification” under Arizona law. In addition, the plaintiffs challenge the county’s cure procedures — the process that allows voters to fix mistakes — arguing that the three counties’ alleged policy of calling the voter who lists their phone number on the envelope, if a signature is in question, is unlawful. 

The complaint also argues that Maricopa County’s vote center locations discriminate against the county’s white voters and advantage Black and Hispanic voters at white voters’ expense. The plaintiffs continue the right-wing attack on safe and secure ballot drop boxes, arguing that Maricopa County’s use of “unstaffed” drop boxes violates Arizona law. They allege that the use of unstaffed drop boxes in the three counties “creates a significant and unreasonable risk that the boxes may be used to facilitate illegal ballot harvesting or other fraud.” 

After a little over two weeks, the plaintiffs withdrew their Maricopa County lawsuit. 

First filed on Feb. 6, a different lawsuit in Maricopa County challenged the same procedures. Last week, just 16 days after bringing the lawsuit, the plaintiffs filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss their own lawsuit. The plaintiffs asked for dismissal without prejudice, meaning they could refile a similar case, which is precisely what the group did.

Maricopa County has asked the court to dismiss the original case for good to avoid forum shopping. 

Last week, Maricopa County asked the court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ case in Maricopa County with prejudice so that the group could not refile. The county argues the plaintiffs are engaged in a “thinly-veiled attempt to forum shop.” Forum shopping is the practice of pursuing a claim in a certain location where the plaintiffs think the court will treat the claim most favorably. 

Maricopa County argues that the court “should not turn a blind eye to what Plaintiff are attempting to do. The best way—the only way—to prevent such egregious conduct here and discourage other litigants from engaging in it in the future is by dismissing this action with prejudice.” 

Now, it will be up to the Maricopa County court to decide whether or not this case will be dismissed with or without prejudice. 

In a statement, America First Legal’s senior counsel, James Rogers wrote:

“A majority of Arizonans believe that problems with how Maricopa County conducted the 2022 election affected the outcome. Public trust in our institutions is faltering. This lawsuit is about restoring integrity to our election process. And what is Maricopa County’s response to the legitimate concerns of its citizens? Frivolous procedural motions trying to delay the case and ensure it is not heard on its merits. This voluntary dismissal is not the end of this case, but just the beginning. With this case newly refiled in Yavapai County, we will continue to zealously prosecute this case on behalf of our clients. It’s time to restore public confidence in Arizona’s elections.”

The new Yavapai lawsuit is the latest in a series of lawsuits targeting Arizona’s election administration.

This new lawsuit marks the eighth anti-voting lawsuit targeting election administration in the state according to Democracy Docket’s case database. These lawsuits brought by Republicans and conservative legal groups take aim at the state’s 2023 Elections Procedures Manual, dropboxes, signature verification rules, hand counting and more. With the 2024 elections just mere months away, it is clear that the conservative legal movement is ramping up its effort to create as much chaos in the courts as possible all with the goal of making it harder for Arizonans to vote.

After this article was posted, the court dismissed the case in Maricopa County without prejudice. This post was updated on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 11:46 a.m. EST.

Read the complaint here.

Learn more about the case in Yavapai County here.

Learn more about the case in Maricopa County here.