Arizona high court reverses ruling against GOP on sanctions over 2020 election challenge

The Arizona Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that put sanctions on the Arizona Republican Party, after the state spent time and money defending its 2020 election procedures.

The court ruled unanimously Thursday to overrule the trial court’s $27,000 in sanctions and Secretary of State office attorney fees.

“During times of social and political contention and strife, we must be mindful that our courts provide a means of resolving such conflicts when issues are legitimately presented,” Justice John Lopex wrote in the decision. “Even if done inadvertently and with the best of intentions, such sanctions present a real and present danger to the rule of law.”

The Arizona Republican Party said it is pleased with the court’s decision to reverse the sanctions. The group said in a statement that the ruling “reaffirms the fundamental legal principle that raising questions about the interpretation and application of election laws is a legitimate use of the judicial system, not a groundless or bad faith action.”

The state Republican Party filed a lawsuit alleging that Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and more than 4.5 million people, conducted a required hand-count of the accuracy of ballots in the 2020 election when it wasn’t necessary.

The hand-count counted ballots cast at centers open to all county voters, not precincts. The examination and post-election tests found that the voting machines were 100 percent accurate, The Associated Press reported.

No evidence of fraud or hacking of voting machines in the state’s election was found.

In 2021, a judge in Maricopa County ruled that the party’s lawsuit was “groundless” and ordered the GOP to pay more than $18,000 in legal fees. An appeals court rejected the party’s attempt to undo the judge’s ruling in 2023.

The state Supreme Court wrote in its decision that it was not overturning the dismissal of the case, but instead found that the lower courts should not have said the case was groundless.

The Arizona GOP’s claim was “not groundless and arguably was made in good faith,” the ruling said.

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