Arizona's electors cast state's 11 votes for President-elect Joe Biden

Arizona's 11 presidential electors on Monday cast their votes for Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, sealing their historic 10,457-vote victory in a state that for decades had given its votes to Republicans.

The ceremony typically is not noteworthy, instead just a formality in the Electoral College process. But this year’s proceedings took on particular significance as President Donald Trump refuses to accept his defeat at the ballot box last month.

Security concerns led electors to convene at an undisclosed location – ultimately revealed as the Phoenix Convention Center – instead of the state Capitol, the usual gathering place. Meanwhile, many Republican legislators are not moving on after the election.

Several dozen on Monday urged Congress to reject the slate of electors chosen by more than 1 million Arizona voters while others said they would issue subpoenas with the intent of undertaking an audit of the results, at least in Maricopa County.

Myriad claims of election impropriety were rejected by state and federal judges the past few weeks, and those who claim that fraud occurred have produced no evidence to back their assertion.

"This year's proceeding … has unfortunately had an artificial shadow cast over it in the form of baseless accusations of misconduct and fraud, for which no proof has been provided and which court after court has dismissed as unfounded," said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs at Monday’s ceremony, noting those allegations had "led to threats of violence against me, my office and those in this room today."

"I took an oath of office similar to the one the electors sitting here just took to support the Constitution and laws of the United States of America and the state of Arizona, and … that is what we have done this year in this election," she said.

"And while there will be those who are upset their candidate didn't win, it is patently un-American and unacceptable that today's event should be anything less than an honored tradition held with pride."

How the electoral process works

After taking an oath administered by Hobbs, the state's electors signed vote certificates for the offices of president and vice president, which were sealed in preparation for submission to the U.S. Senate and National Archives.

Arizona's slate of electors is chosen by the party of the winning candidate and usually consists of a mix of elected officials, activists and party elders.

Democratic electors this year included outgoing Arizona Democratic Party Chair Felecia Rotellini, Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo and Pinal County NAACP President Constance Jackson.

Electors from labor unions included Arizona AFL-CIO President James McLaughlin, Arizona AFL-CIO Executive Director Fred Yamashita and Arizona Education Association Executive Director Luis Alberto Heredia.

Several tribal leaders also were represented: Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis and Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr.

Congress is scheduled to tally Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. Enough states have certified results to give Biden at least 306 electoral college votes — more than the 270 need to win. Trump, who has 232 votes, continues to insist he won several states where he lost.

In an unusual move, the Arizona Republican Party convened their electors on Monday, too, and said they sent their votes in favor of Trump to Congress. The vote has no direct impact on the electoral college votes but GOP legislators signed a letter urging Congress to accept the party’s slate of electors supporting Trump’s re-election instead of the Democratic slate chosen by voters.

The letter also said Congress should not consider a slate of electors from Arizona “until the Legislature deems the election to be final … .”

Such measures do not seem to have support from leaders at the Capitol, though. Neither Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, nor House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, signed the letter.

Senate holds hearing during vote

And at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said he “intends to issue subpoenas in an effort to audit equipment, software and ballots.”

The committee’s six-hour virtual hearing, though, was a stark contrast to an unofficial meeting several Republican legislators attended two weeks earlier with the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, which included a litany of unproven claims about fraud and other malfeasance.

Officials from the attorney general's election integrity unit spoke broadly and Maricopa County outlined procedures for securing the election and the various challenges to the election, which have failed in court.

Clint Hickman, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, started his comments in the proceedings by telling the committee he had "complete confidence and trust in the results of this election."

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And many of the lawmakers’ questions involved basic laws and procedures about the election process that were in place long before any voter even cast a ballot — the very procedures by which the legislators themselves are elected and which the county had invited them to learn about before Nov. 3.

The hearing, though, foreshadowed a legislative session in which Republicans are likely to push for overhauling parts of Arizona’s election laws, such as the rules on voting by mail and the election audits counties are already required to undertake by hand.

“There is huge, huge voter discomfort with what’s going on out there and the rumors that are out there,” said Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray, R-Sun City.

Some of the lawmakers who called for a hearing complained that Monday's meeting came too late to have an effect on the outcome of the election, however.

Senator-elect Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, called it “a waste of everyone’s time.”

Democrats argued the hearing was a distraction and Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, called it “catering to an extreme base.”

Hickman said the county had retained a firm to conduct an independent audit of the election but said it could not proceed while lawsuits over the election are ongoing.

It was not immediately clear what Farnsworth would obtain with the subpoenas he planned to issue. He did not respond to a request for further explanation and a spokesman for Senate Republicans said details had yet to be determined when asked for specifics.

At the end of Monday's electoral vote ceremony, Hobbs acknowledged it was "evident" it would not be "the end of the discussion about the 2020 election, nor how we conduct elections going forward."

"This is likely the beginning of a lengthy debate about how to reclaim faith in our democratic institutions," she said. "I look forward to those discussions with people of good intent and interest in rebuilding our faith in each other." 

Legal challenges continue

Indeed, three Arizona election suits attempting to void Biden’s win remain active in the courts, despite Monday's electoral vote. Challengers have argued that election results are not truly final until the next president takes office on Jan. 20.

Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward is a plaintiff in two of the lawsuits.

One case, which was dismissed by Arizona courts, questions the signature verification process used to authenticate mail-in ballots as well as the process of counting ballots machines couldn't read.

Ward has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review it, claiming her due process rights were violated so Arizona could meet the federal “safe harbor” deadline, a cutoff for state-level election disputes that ensures electors' votes are counted.

Another that claims "massive election fraud" was deemed “sorely wanting of relevant or reliable evidence" by a federal court judge. Ward has appealed that case to the Ninth Circuit, and former Gilbert Public Schools Board President Staci Burk also has filed a nearly identical suit in Pinal County Superior Court.

A Pinal judge on Monday afternoon weighed motions from Maricopa County and the Secretary of State’s asking him to dismiss that case.

A few hours before the hearing, an attorney for Hobbs filed an additional motion containing a declaration from the state's elections director stating Burk is not registered to vote, indicating she did not have the legal authority to contest a state election.

Monday’s proceedings came amid ramped up security at the state Capitol, with some entrances to the Executive Office Tower closed and police stationed outside the building.

About two dozen protesters gathered in the morning to denounce the election results. Some Executive Tower entrances were closed, and visitors needed appointments to access the floors that house the offices of the governor and secretary of state, according to an internal email obtained by The Republic.

Former Republican Senate candidate Daniel McCarthy, a veteran who lost a primary race to then-U.S. Sen. Martha McSally in August, led the flag-waving crowd of protesters to the front of the tower as lawmakers held their virtual meeting. The group asked state employees and Capitol police officers coming and going from the building if the electors were inside.

McCarthy repeated conspiracy theories about the election, including one involving voting machines connected to the internet. That claims was directly contradicted in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He was interrupted, though, by progressive activist Leonard Clark, who shouted at McCarthy for trying to overturn the election and the will of millions of voters.

“To hell with all of you trying to steal my vote!” Clark said.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

Contact Maria Polletta at maria.polletta@arizonarepublic.com or follow her on Twitter at @mpolletta. Andrew Oxford at andrew.oxford@arizonarepublic.com or on Twitter at @andrewboxford.