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Lawsuits and Sharpies: The Republican response to the election

Republicans across Arizona continue to speculate on the voting process as 2020 general election results show them losing their grip on the state

The Republican Poll Observers sit by the Tempe Campus near the SDFC voting location in Tempe, Arizona, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Republicans in Arizona insist that the presidential election is not finished, following the lead set by President Donald Trump after multiple news outlets called the 2020 presidential election in favor of Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 7.

Following the announcements of Biden's expected victory, Trump followed his tweets questioning the legitimacy of voting numbers across several states with one that claimed he "WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!"

Legal challenges and ballot confusion

Judah Waxelbaum, the state chair for the Arizona Federation of College Republicans and Western regional vice chair for the College Republican National Committee, said he wants to see how the "legal process plays out" and for the "legal votes" to be counted before he will be sure of who the president will be. 

"Let everything be counted and investigated," Waxelbaum, a senior studying political science, said. "Once it's been deemed that everything was OK and whoever was elected was elected by legitimate means, that'll be my president."

Waxelbaum said he did not expect the unrest which has unfolded in the days following the polls closing.

"It's a lot more hectic than I thought it would be," Waxelbaum said. "I didn't take into consideration the disinformation campaign that would be played all across Twitter when it came to counting votes."

After Election Day, some Trump supporters peddled since-debunked conspiracy theories regarding the voting process and how ballots are being counted.

One such conspiracy was the idea that Maricopa County officials were encouraging the use of Sharpies on ballots cast in person to intentionally invalidate ballots. 

After discussions with Maricopa County officials, state Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced on Twitter his office is "confident that the use of Sharpie markers did not result in disenfranchisement for Arizona voters."

However, these claims have since grown into general mistrust for the ballot counting process in the state, with Republicans such as Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) joining protests at the Maricopa County Elections Department and questioning the security of the ballot counts. 

Gov. Doug Ducey has not commented on the protests but tweeted on Nov. 4 that it is important "we be patient before declaring any races up or down the ballot."

However, Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee filed a lawsuit in Arizona on Nov. 7 against Hobbs and Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, claiming "potentially thousands of voters across Maricopa County have been disenfranchised."

Prior to the Trump campaign filing its lawsuit, Hobbs told The Hill on Nov. 4 that Trump and his campaign would have no "legal pathway" to challenge the way votes are being counted. 

Clay Robinson, vice president of membership for ASU College Republicans and a sophomore studying economics and civic and economic thought and leadership, said he opposes the efforts to contest election results with "endless litigation" at the risk of losing public trust in U.S. institutions. 

"It might be healthier for the country to just accept what's happening with the rest of the ballots without fear or intimidation from either side," Robinson said. "So, that's kind of me breaking away from the attitudes of the administration right now."

Can Arizona be considered blue? 

During Trump's rally in Phoenix on Feb. 19, Ducey told the crowd "We are going to keep Arizona red in 2020." 

However, of the votes counted by Nov. 7, over 1.6 million Arizonans voted for Biden — nearly 17,000 more than the votes cast for Trump. Additionally, Arizona's Senate race was called in favor of Democratic candidate Mark Kelly, unseating incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and giving the Democratic Party control of Arizona's representation in the U.S. Senate.

READ MORE: Democrats celebrate diverse turn out, strong support in Arizona

Yet, Waxelbaum said he does not consider Arizona to be a "blue state," as Republicans hold the legislative majority in the state.

"I have a huge problem with people who claim that if Joe Biden flips Arizona, Arizona is now blue," Waxelbaum said. "Some of the rhetoric is incredibly frustrating. You know, states are mixed."

Robinson said he was proud of the record number of Republican women elected to Congress and of the Republican support among certain divisions of Latinx voters. 

"Those were just hopeful signs to me that the future of the Republican Party seems to be working class, middle America," Robinson said. "I think that's exciting, going forward."

Yet, the two parties of voters remain at grips with each other, faced with rising COVID-19 cases and a volatile economy.

In January, elected Republicans and Democrats will assume their legislative roles representing a deeply polarized nation.

Robinson said the 2020 general election has "proved, once again, just how divided we are" — a sentiment Waxelbaum echoed.

"I think the only way America moves forward is with an understanding that there's no weakness in hearing what the other side has to say,” Waxelbaum said. “We need to stop looking at those on the other side of the aisle as political enemies, but rather Americans with disagreements."

Reach the reporter at and follow @kevinpirehpour on Twitter. 

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