/ Modified may 28, 2024 3:26 p.m.

Judge pauses ballot printing in Maricopa County

A judge told Maricopa County to pause its ongoing ballot preparation process for the July 30 primary election as she considers a lawsuit by Republicans trying to add a new candidate to the ballot.

Maricopa county superior courthouse Maricopa County Superior Court
Tony Webster

A judge told Maricopa County to pause its ongoing ballot preparation process for the July 30 primary election as she considers a lawsuit by Republicans trying to add a new candidate to the ballot.

Republicans in the West Valley’s Legislative District 29 voted to add James Taylor to the ballot to replace Rep. Austin Smith (R-Wittman), who withdrew from the race for the district’s two seats in the Arizona House of Representatives as he faced allegations he forged signatures on the candidate petitions he filed to qualify for the ballot.

State law allows local political parties to replace withdrawn candidates but it says they must do so before the county prints ballots.

Rosa Aguilar, an attorney for Maricopa County, told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joan Sinclair that the county started the printing process on May 13, days before LD29 Republicans attempted to submit Taylor’s nomination to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

“The county then began the ballot-printing process and actually began printing the ballots in order to prove them on May 16,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar said that if the county is forced to add Taylor to the ballot now, it would negate 15 days of ballot preparations, which could result in errors on ballots and missed deadlines.

“And so there would be great harm in pausing that process in terms of the state and federal deadlines for mailing the ballots to early voters and active military and overseas voters,” she said.

June 15 is the last day for the county to mail ballots to overseas and military voters.

But Rep. Alexander Kolodin (R-Scottsdale), an attorney representing the Maricopa County Republican Committee, accused Maricopa County of political gamesmanship. He argued there was no way the county had printed ballots before the LD29 GOP submitted Taylor’s name on May 17.

Counties are required to send ballot proofs to county election officials, and Kolodin said that proof wasn’t sent to Maricopa County Republican Committee Chair Craig Berland until May 23.

“And obviously that process of him having inputted any errors on the ballot, that would need to be taken into account before ballots could be printed,” Kolodin told Sinclair.

Kolodin asked Sinclair to stop Maricopa County’s ballot-printing process until she can hold a hearing to consider the request to place Taylor on the ballot.

Aguilar objected to that request, saying the county is on a tight deadline to print ballots in time for the election.

Sinclair disagreed, saying the temporary restraining order was necessary until she can make a final decision about whether to order the county to place Taylor’s name on the ballot. She scheduled a hearing to consider all evidence in the case for Wednesday morning.

“It made sense to go ahead and have this stay to just stop so that we're not in a bigger hole than we are in right now,” Sinclair said.

This story was produced by KJZZ, the public radio station in Phoenix, Arizona.
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