Arizona secretary of state certifies election results with Biden winning state's 11 electoral votes
Arizona officials certified the results of the general election on Monday, confirming Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state and clearing the way for Mark Kelly to take a seat in the U.S. Senate as soon as Wednesday.
The short event in the old state Capitol in Phoenix typically is a mere formality, scheduled by law for the fourth Monday after Election Day, long after the dust of campaign season ordinarily has settled.
But as President Donald Trump and many supporters have continued to dispute his defeat, the occasion drew national attention and served as a rebuttal of his claims of fraud and an affirmation of the state’s election process.
After protests and lawsuits, it was all a bit anticlimactic, too, simply confirming one more time what some analysts on election night said the presidential race would yield: a Biden victory in this battleground state.
Republican, Democratic officials confident in results
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs signed the official elections results, compiled from the final tallies of Arizona’s 15 counties, alongside Gov. Doug Ducey, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Chief Justice Robert Brutinel.
Hobbs, a Democrat, touted high turnout despite the election unfolding in the midst of a pandemic and attributed much of that to the long-running popularity of voting by mail in Arizona and broader awareness of early in-person voting.
Voters cast more than 3.2 million ballots and turnout neared 80%, up from about 65% in 2018 and about 74% during the last presidential election in 2016, Hobbs said.
"Despite the unprecedented challenges, Arizonans showed up for our democracy," Hobbs said. "Every Arizona voter has my thanks and should know they can stand proud that this election was conducted with transparency, accuracy and fairness in accordance with Arizona’s laws and election procedures, despite numerous unfounded claims to the contrary."
Hobbs began the meeting by listing steps the state takes to ensure the security of the election, from auditing ballots by hand to testing equipment publicly and including all political parties in the tabulation process.
Ducey, a Republican who campaigned with Trump, expressed confidence in the election process.
"We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong and that’s why I bragged on it so much," he said.
Trump's lawyers claim results are false
Still, less than 2 miles from the Capitol, several Republican legislators held an event with Trump campaign lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, who claimed lawmakers could and should throw out the results of the election.
“They are certifying a false statement to the United States of America,” Giuliani told the Republican lawmakers assembled in a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix, contending that the results were simply false.
But legislative leaders have shown little interest in trying to stop or overturn the results of the election and have said it would not be legally possible even if they wanted to.
The gathering Monday was not authorized by the Senate president or the speaker of the House of Representatives, meaning there were no Democrats there to question the witnesses and the group had no subpoena power.
Its organizer, state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, had sought approval for a meeting of the House Federal Relations Committee, which he chairs, but never received it. And the Legislature’s own lawyers said in a written opinion after the election that state law requires Arizona’s electors to cast their support with the presidential candidate who won the most votes, a provision they said lawmakers could not revise retroactively to affect the 2020 election.
While yet another legal challenge wended through the judicial system on Monday, lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and its supporters disputing the processes of the election have not held up to scrutiny in Arizona courts.
On top of that, every board of supervisors in all 15 counties had certified tallies ahead of Monday, allowing the state to finalize its results.
Final count: Biden won by 10,457 votes
In the end, the certification of the election results seemed like one more way that Arizona upended the president’s plans for victory.
The state’s 11 electoral college votes are not decisive at this point (the Associated Press says Biden has 306 electoral college votes while Trump trails with 232).
But Arizona seems to have been a particular headache for the president’s campaign.
The first batches of results on election night showed Biden leading in Arizona and it was not too long before Fox News called the race for him here.
With many ballots remaining to be counted, the call caught many analysts off guard and drew the ire of the Trump campaign as well as its supporters.
The call held up.
Biden’s lead from election night shrank as officials continued to count ballots in the following days, but Trump would not catch him.
The final results show Biden beat Trump by 10,457 votes – amargin of about 0.3 percentage points — while Libertarian Jo Jorgenson won 51,465 votes.
The Trump campaign and supporters filed several lawsuits after the election, seeking at one point for two voters to cast new ballots and also seeking a new audit of the results in Maricopa County even after the standard audit showed a perfect match between the count produced by tabulating machines and a count conducted by hand.
None of the cases got very far or even alleged the sort of rampant illegal voting that Trump has maintained robbed him of re-election.
The official certification of results starts a clock that will run for five days, allowing anyone to contest the results of the election in court. There was already at least one case lined up Monday, as Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward asked a judge to, among other things, allow for examination of signatures on the envelopes of early ballots. Election officials already check signatures on early ballot envelopes against signatures on voter registration records but Ward argued observers were kept too far away to monitor the process.
“Many of our observers were unable to actually observe in any meaningful way. So, we need to examine those signatures on those envelopes that ballots came in, so that we can make sure that real people voted in this election,” Ward said in a video posted online Monday.
The race, she argued, was “way too close to just let things go.”
Those concerns haven't swayed Arizona's elections officials, though.
“They’re just wrong,” Hobbs said after certifying the election results. “They have made claims. They’ve been making claims since Nov. 4 and they’ve had no evidence to back up any of these claims. They’re not going to find anything.”
Kelly will take office Wednesday
Meanwhile, Kelly will be free to take his seat in the U.S. Senate after defeating U.S. Sen. Martha McSally.
The race was a special election to fill the remaining two years on the six-year term of U.S. Sen. John McCain, who was re-elected in 2016 and died in 2018.
Kelly’s office said he will be sworn in at noon Eastern time on Wednesday, slightly narrowing the Republicans' majority in the Senate for the remaining few weeks of this Congress.
“I will be signing official documentation today that will be hand delivered to the secretary of the U.S. Senate so Arizona’s newest senator can be sworn into office as swiftly as possible,” Ducey said Monday.
And then, as the governor signed his name to the official results, his cell phone rang to life.
The tune: "Hail to the Chief." It was the ringtone the governor previously said he set for phone calls from the White House.
Ducey reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his phone. He set it aside and continued signing.