Arizona Supreme Court upholds election challenge dismissal

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, Maricopa County elections officials count ballots in Phoenix. A federal judge on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, heard arguments over whether to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to decertify election results the election results that gave Democrat President-elect Joe Biden his Arizona victory. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court late Tuesday threw out the last remaining legal challenge in state courts to the choice of voters here of Joe Biden for president.

Chief Justice Robert Brutinel said only those people who are “qualified electors’’ have the right to sue to overturn a vote. But he said Pinal County resident Staci Burk had not been registered to vote in the 2020 race, meaning she lacked legal standing to file suit in the first place.

Brutinel, writing for himself and three other justices who reviewed the case, acknowledged that Burk contends that her registration was improperly canceled.

The justices did not rule on that nor dispute her argument. But Brutinel said it doesn’t matter.

“She admits that she was well aware before the election that she would not be able to vote in the general election,’’ the chief justice wrote. “There is nothing before the court to indicate that (Burk) timely contacted the appropriate authorities to correct any problems with her voter registration.’’

In her claim, Burk alleged widespread fraud and improper tallying by voting machines. She also claims that someone had flown a batch of ballots into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, some of which Burk said were taken to the Maricopa County ballot tabulation center.

Burk never got a hearing on her claims after her case was tossed last month by Pinal County Superior Court Judge Kevin White who also concluded she had no legal right to sue.

White also found — and the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed — that Burk, who represented herself, waited too long to file suit.

Brutinel said the deadline to challenge the formal canvass of the election as Dec. 7. And while she did file legal papers that day, the chief justice said it was not a properly verified complaint.

Burke stated in a text message to a PinalCentral reporter Wednesday that she plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While Tuesday’s ruling wraps up all the election cases in state, there are technically two other cases that originated here which remain on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One by Kelli Ward, who chairs the Arizona Republican Party, contends judges here did not give her enough time to examine ballots to prove her claim of election irregularities. In that case, the judge cited deadlines for completing the state process and concluded that a random sample that was examined showed there were not enough errors to overturn the fact that Biden defeated Trump.

Only thing is, the justices have given the defendants in that case — the 11 electors pledged to Biden — until Jan. 14 to respond. That is eight days after Congress convenes to review the electoral votes and formally declare the winner of the race.

The second involves Ward and the other 10 would-be Republican electors who allege a series of problems in how the election was conducted, including fraud and “statistical improbability’’ that Biden could have won the race here. But a response to that is not due until Jan. 28, more than a week after the presidential inauguration.

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