Maricopa Wants To Break Free? Arizona’s Proposal To Split Maricopa County into Four

By Gabriela Berigan.

The 2020 election caused a severe divide between the political parties. This divide was more notable in swing states, which ultimately decided the results of the election. Trump challenged these states on multiple instances but was unsuccessful on all but one occasion. There were four different challenges in Arizona specifically, but these were all dismissed for varying reasons. Because these challenges were unsuccessful, the House and Elections Committee in Arizona has proposed HB2787, which would divide Maricopa County into four separate counties.

2020 Election Fraud Challenges

Extreme political tension between the two parties caused debate over the validity of the 2020 election. Democrats did everything in their power to get Trump out of office after his first term. But determined Republicans intended to keep Trump in for a second term. Because of this dividing line, the 2020 election results were paramount.

President Biden ended up winning by a 306–232 vote in the Electoral College. However, it was not long before many groups and Trump himself began challenging the results.  Trump’s constant allegations fueled many lawsuits attacking states’ voter policies and he even brought lawsuits in places where Biden won by a substantial number. Since then, Trump’s campaign has “lost more than 60 cases, including at the Supreme Court.”

More specifically, the states targeted in the lawsuits were swing states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The only successful lawsuit was in Pennsylvania, where a judge held there was voter fraud because voters needed to prove their identification by November 9, 2020 not November 12, 2020, However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned that ruling. Besides this one example, 61 out of the 62 suits failed.

Aftermath of 2020 Election in Arizona

In Arizona, there were four specific challenges. First, the Trump campaign and two Maricopa residents alleged that the ballots were invalid because voters filled them out with a permanent marker. Maricopa County challenged the factual basis saying the scanner did not reject ballots filled out in permanent marker. Still, voters would have had the opportunity to fill out a new ballot. Based on Maricopa’s assertions, Trump lost this challenge.

Second, the campaign filed a suit in Arizona state court challenging Maricopa’s process for “improperly rejecting ballots.” The lawsuit claimed that the Secretary of State’s manual was violating the law because the random ballot sampling was for the polling place instead of the precinct. However, most Arizona counties performed post-election audits and concluded the results were the same. Based on this, a judge dismissed the lawsuit.

Third, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected GOP chair Kelli Ward’s attempt to challenge the election results. Kelli Ward brought a suit alleging the state needed to recount the votes, but the challenge failed to show evidence of misconduct,’ ‘[i]llegal votes’ or that the Biden Electors ‘did not in fact receive the highest number of votes for office.’”

Finally, a group of complainants filed a “Complaint for Declaratory, Emergency, and Permanent Injunctive Relief” regarding the 2020 election in Arizona. The complaint alleged that Maricopa used “hardware from Dominion Voting Systems Corporation,” which switched Trump votes to Biden votes. However, Arizona U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa dismissed this complaint, noting that the complaint lacked sufficient evidence to sustain a claim.

HB2787: Proposal To Divide Maricopa

These unsuccessful lawsuits have led Arizona Republicans to find alternative solutions for future elections. HB2787 was introduced on February 16, 2022, by nine members of the Arizona legislature. The bill proposes splitting Maricopa into four sections, including Maricopa County, Hohokam County, O’Odham County, and Mogollon County.

Based on this proposal, the size of Maricopa would decrease substantially. According to the proposed bill, the new Maricopa County would include Glendale, Avondale, Tempe, and Phoenix areas. Hohokam County would include Mesa and Chandler. Mogollon County would include Peoria, Scottsdale, and north Phoenix. Finally, O’Odham County would include the remaining western area of the current Maricopa County.

Representative Jake Hoffman claims the split is needed because “Maricopa County is becoming too big to be efficiently managed.” Despite Hoffman’s statement, Democrats think the bill stems from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ “refusal” to pursue “efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.” Hoffman responded to the Democrats’ thoughts as a “‘pure conspiracy theory’ and ‘‘laughable.’”

While Hoffman has dismissed the Democrats’ contentions, Representative Sarah Liguori notes that three districts would likely be Republican and only one would be Democrat. A singular Democratic district would substantially change voting patterns as Maricopa was blue in the 2020 election. In other words, splitting Maricopa into four would alter the voting populations enough to create a Republican majority for future elections.

Potential Impacts

The House and Elections Committee approved the bill in a “7-6 party-line vote with Republicans in favor.” Based on this, it is unclear whether the bill would pass the full House and Senate; however, the current legislature is “controlled narrowly by Republicans.”

Despite the uncertainty, current residents should expect changes if the legislature passes the bill. Specifically, the bill highlights division procedures. The procedures discuss electing board supervisors, county seats, special districts, and sharing capital assets. Additionally, the new counties would go through creating a court system, public health agency, and elections department. Maricopa County residents would see the most significant change in the local court system. If the bill passes, it will go into effect after December 31, 2022.

Conclusion

It is unclear whether HB2787 will pass in both the House and Senate; however, if it does, it will result in a long transition to establish new, functioning counties. While the motivations of the bill are questionable, it is likely a direct result of the unsuccessful challenges to the 2020 election.

"Official Ballot Drop Here" by amanky is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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By Gabriela Berigan

J.D. Candidate 2023

Gabriela is a 2L Staff Writer for ASLJ at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. She is from Tucson, Arizona and earned a BA in Spanish and BS in chemistry from the University of Arizona in 2020. Her legal interests include intellectual property with a particular focus on patent law. When she is not in school she enjoys hanging out with dogs, hiking, and trying new restaurants.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the individual contributors to the ASLJ Blog and should not be construed as the opinions of the Arizona State Law Journal or the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.