- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona judge says he’ll hear testimony Monday from voters and experts in a lawsuit that seeks to throw out the results of the state’s presidential primary that was marred by long lines at polling places.

Voters also complained that they should have been allowed to cast ballots but were not on the voting rolls. The election also prompted a Department of Justice review of the county’s election practices and a federal lawsuit by state and national Democratic Party groups and candidate Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Maricopa County Judge David Gass could still dismiss the lawsuit filed by Tucson resident John Brakey as requested by the Arizona attorney general’s office.

In a hearing Tuesday, Gass called for a full hearing next week, where he’s expected to hear testimony from voters and experts for Brakey on how the long lines and other problems at the March 22 election merit an order tossing the results.

The attorney general, representing Secretary of State Michele Reagan, said in a court filing that there were problems with the election and Reagan wants to see them fixed, but state law doesn’t allow the legal challenge to proceed.

“The contest statutes only apply to specific categories of elections, and the presidential preference election does not fall within the scope” of those laws, the filing by Assistant Attorney General James Driscoll-MacEachron said.

Driscoll-MacEachron spent much of Tuesday’s hearing trying to persuade the judge that Brakey didn’t properly serve Reagan or the 15 counties named in the lawsuit.

But Michael Kielsky, Brakey’s lawyer, focused on the heart of his argument - that long lines suppressed the vote, and voter registration problems led to illegal vote counts and Reagan should not have certified the election results.

“The certification should be voided because … the results of the election were provably not correct,” Kielsky told the judge. “There was miscounting, there were illegal votes and there was an overall denial, a misconduct of the election.”

Kielsky has said he believes the long lines in Maricopa County depressed voter turnout by 12 percent. The long lines were blamed in part on the county’s decision to cut the number of polling places to 60 from 200 in the 2012 presidential primary.

It was the only county with long lines, but he contends voter registration problems extended statewide and mean the results should be voided.

Just what would happen if Gass voided the results is unclear. Gass and Kielsky both acknowledged he could not order a new election. It may be up to the major political parties to make the choice, Kielsky said.

“If the state parties want to go to some alternative means to determine what the outcome would have been, as long as they comply with state law, they can do that,” Kielsky said. “If they want to conduct another election, they can do that. It’s all up to them at that point. “

The county has acknowledged it made mistakes in how it operated the primary by dramatically cutting the number of polling places and widely underestimating Election Day turnout.

A separate lawsuit was filed last week in federal court by the state and national Democratic parties and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

It calls for court oversight for voting location choices in future Maricopa County elections and a ban on failing to count otherwise-valid ballots cast in an incorrect precinct. It also seeks to overturn a recently enacted law making it a felony in most cases to collect someone else’s early ballot.


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