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Failed Arizona Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem sanctioned over ‘bad faith’ election challenge

Mark Finchem

Arizona Secretary of State Republican candidate Mark Finchem listens to instructions prior to debating democratic challenger Adrian Fontes, Sept. 22, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Failed Arizona Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem, one of a slew of right-wing politicians who ran on questioning the 2020 election results, should be sanctioned for filing a “bad faith” lawsuit attacking his defeat, a judge ruled.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Melissa Iyer Julian noted that the Arizona legislature has aimed to “discourage lawsuits for which there is no legitimate basis in fact or law.”

Though precedent instructs that sanctions in election litigation should only be issued in “rare cases,” Julian added: “This is such a case.”

“None of Contestant Finchem’s allegations, even if true, would have changed the vote count enough to overcome the 120,000 votes he needed to affect the result of this election,” the eight-page ruling states. “The Court finds that this lawsuit was groundless and not brought in good faith.”

Finchem was one of a slate of candidates running under an “America First” banner, of pro-Donald Trump partisans running on the former president’s revisionism about his 2020 defeat. In what many interpreted as a sign of Trump’s declining sway over GOP politics, most of these candidates lost their 2022 midterm races.

When he lost, Finchem followed part of former President Trump’s path: trying to revise, litigate, and overturn his defeat in the courts. Finchem claimed to have been stymied by then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who still served as a top administrator over the Grand Canyon State’s elections before her own election to governor. Hobbs’ rival Kari Lake — who, like Finchem, was an election denier — also unsuccessfully tried to overturn her loss through the courts and had her legal team sanctioned.

Judge Julian found that none of Finchem’s complaints about the 2022 race held water.

“None of these alleged acts of misconduct presented a ‘fairly debatable’ election challenge as Finchem did not and could not allege that any of these acts rendered uncertain the outcome of an election he lost by over 120,000 votes,” the ruling says.

Like Trump, Finchem also alleged that Twitter interfered in the election to make him lose. The judge scoffed at that argument, finding it without evidence and irrelevant.

“Twitter is not an election official and its decision to temporarily suspend Finchem’s Twitter account presents no valid basis for an election challenge under Arizona law,” the ruling states. “Moreover, even if it could be construed as predicate misconduct for an election contest, Finchem does not explain how the effort to flag his Twitter account in January 2021 affected his election loss over twenty months later.”

Ultimately, the judge said, Finchem’s own words discredit his lawsuit.

“The evidence appended to Finchem’s own amended statement demonstrates that he pursued this contest in bad faith,” the ruling states, citing his own expert’s evidence on so-called “black box votes.”

“Finchem’s expert report identified 80,000 potentially ‘missing votes,'” the ruling says. “Yet, Finchem lost the election he challenged by 120,208 votes. That margin was so significant that even if it were assumed that 80,000 votes were missing and that those votes would all have been cast in his favor, the result of the election would not have changed.”

The judge notes that Finchem withdrew his request to inspect the ballots.

“This demonstrates that Finchem challenged his election loss despite knowing that his claims regarding misconduct and procedural irregularities were insufficient under the law to sustain the contest,” the ruling says.

Before his failed race for secretary of state, Finchem served for eight years in the Arizona House of Representatives, and he is a self-identified member of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia group whose leaders were recently convicted of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Read the ruling here.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."