Arizona GOP rejects single-day vote proposal, angering election deniers newsbhunt


PHOENIX — A proposal by Republican election deniers in Arizona who want to opt out of the state’s government-run presidential primary election in 2024 and instead hold the party’s own one-day, in-person election, with paper ballots that would be counted by hand, has caused anxiety among top Republicans in Washington, who fear being drawn into a messy fight.

The state party leader rejected the Maricopa County Republican Committee’s proposal shortly ahead of a deadline on Friday after days of frenzied discussions that involved national Republicans and advisers to former president Donald Trump — likely setting up political backlash in 2024 in a state whose GOP has been pulled to the right in recent years by MAGA loyalists and election skeptics.

Jeff DeWit, chair of the state party, concluded that the party does not have the money, the manpower or the infrastructure to run an election for an estimated 1.4 million eligible voters.

The fight over management of the state’s nominating contest on March 19 demonstrates most vividly the divide between conservatives who want to radically change voting procedures after Trump’s 2020 electoral defeat and those who have accepted his loss and want to work within institutional election norms during the 2024 contest.

The battle — which is playing out within the largest voting jurisdiction in a state that will help decide the presidency and control of the U.S. Senate — follows years of vilification of voting norms by Trump and his supporters. It is a consequence of deepening dysfunction within the party on an issue that has accelerated Democratic gains in the newly competitive state.

“The actions taken by the MCRC are in solidarity with President Donald J. Trump, who has been persecuted, arrested and indicted for taking the very same positions,” Craig Berland, chair of the Maricopa County Republican Committee, said in a video posted this week on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Trump has not taken a position on the issue, and two advisers said he has not been involved in conversations about the proposal.

But the idea of requiring single-day voting with ballots that would be tallied by hand has sparked dozens of calls in recent days with Trump campaign advisers, Republican National Committee officials and others outside the state, which is viewed as critically important to the Republican Party’s chances in 2024.

Arizona officials who both support and oppose the paper ballot initiative have lobbied Trump’s top aides, including Susie Wiles, Brian Jack and Clayton Henson, to back their position. Some of those officials have argued that Trump would of course support the position, considering he has called for paper ballots in the past, and that he should put out a statement backing the proposal.

Kari Lake, who narrowly lost her 2022 bid for governor after campaigning largely on the false notion that Trump won the 2020 election, has talked to at least one Trump aide about the proposal. According to a person familiar with her discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonmybity because they were not authorized to talk about them publicly, Lake conveyed support for the idea to the Trump aide but did not ask the former president or his campaign to weigh in.

But other officials in Arizona, particularly DeWit, have said it would be unworkable and could bankrupt the state party ahead of 2024. And they have raised questions about the motives of those pushing the single-day election idea in Maricopa County.

Wiles has told Arizona officials privately that the Trump campaign does not plan to take a position. Nationally, RNC officials also decided to stay out of the fight.

The Maricopa County GOP proposal runs counter to efforts by the RNC and groups allied with Trump to embrace early voting after disappointing election losses. This summer the RNC launched a “Bank Your Vote” program to encourage early voting, while various efforts led by prominent Trump allies or his former advisers are underway to build out programs to collect and return ballots from people who choose to vote early.

The overwhelming majority of Arizonans return their ballots early either by mail, by drop box or by walking them into poll centers that open before Election Day. Echoing Trump, Maricopa County Republican activists have blamed those voting methods, along with the machines that count votes, for losses by Trump, Lake and others.

“As AZGOP Chairman, Jeff DeWit is in control and must accept full responsibility for his decision,” Berland said in an email to The Washington Post after the state party formally opposed the idea.

Invoking a raft of election conspiracies, Berland and other county GOP leaders passed a resolution in late August that demanded the state party withdraw from conventional voting procedures, where voters can cast ballots by mail and elections are run by local officials across 15 counties and overseen by the secretary of state.

Under state law, parties are allowed to opt out of publicly run elections. Under the county party’s model, the cash-strapped state party would pay for the election, draft election rules, locate and set up hundreds of polling sites, and recruit, hire and train election workers. The state party had about $200,000 cash on hand at the end of June, campaign finance records show.

After a week of conversations with national Republicans, attorneys and other party leaders, DeWit rejected the proposal. Beyond the practical complications of finding millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers, DeWit wrote in a letter to state party leaders and obtained by The Post, the proposal could draw lawsuits and unwanted scrutiny.

“Upon detailed consultation with our Legal Counsel, it is now evident that acting on this resolution would breach our bylaws, placing the AZGOP at risk of countless legal complications,” he wrote in the letter late Thursday. “The rushed resolution was proven to be problematic and an invitation for entities such as the Department of Justice to intervene in our election.”

Meanwhile, Arizona Democrats confirmed late Friday that the party will participate in the traditional government-run primary in March, giving those on the left the chance to weigh in on an incumbent ticket.

Party Chair Yolanda Bejarano said in a written statement that Democrats were prepared to reelect President Biden and Vice President Harris while Arizona Republicans “fight over the basic principles of democracy.”


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