Arizona Legislature 'cannot and will not' overturn election, Republican House speaker says

Ryan Randazzo, Jen Fifield and Andrew Oxford, Arizona Republic
House Speaker Rusty Bowers presides before Gov. Doug Ducey's State of the State address at the Arizona State Capitol on January 13, 2020.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers presides before Gov. Doug Ducey's State of the State address at the Arizona State Capitol on January 13, 2020.

PHOENIX – Republican Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives Rusty Bowers said Friday that pleas from some GOP lawmakers to overturn the results of the state's presidential election are illegal and "cannot and will not" happen.

Republican state Reps. Mark Finchem and Kelly Townsend spent much of the day imploring their fellow legislators on social media to overturn the election results in favor of President Donald Trump.

Bowers said such action would be both illegal and inappropriate.

"As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election," Bowers said in a prepared statement. "I voted for President Trump and worked hard to reelect him. But I cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election."

Related video: Georgia official denounces Trump’s efforts to overturn election

He noted that such an action would violate the oath lawmakers took to uphold the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions, along with, "the basic principles of republican government and the rule of law if we attempted to nullify the people’s vote based on unsupported theories of fraud. Under the laws that we wrote and voted upon, Arizona voters choose who wins, and our system requires that their choice be respected."

Bowers did, however, support an audit of the voting machines in Maricopa County to assuage concerns of tampering, but that call wasn't taken up by Republican county officials who run elections.

Finchem and Townsend's attempt to overturn the election follows a daylong meeting with Trump's legal team, led by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, at a Phoenix hotel ballroom on Monday.

State Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley.
State Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley.

While that meeting occurred, Arizona officials, including Gov. Doug Ducey, signed documents to certify the state's election results.

"I believe that (Ducey) signed a fraudulent document. And he knew it! I’m requesting we recall Arizona’s certification," Finchem said on Twitter Friday morning. Later in the day, he cited a portion of the U.S. Constitution that he claims allows the Legislature to choose a state's slate of electors.

"Gov. Ducey says he ‘did his job’. Now it’s time for us to do ours," Finchem wrote.

President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Trump by 10,457 votes in Arizona, according to the certified results transmitted to the National Archives.

What Finchem and his cohorts are asking is essentially impossible, though it is garnering substantial attention. Finchem gained more than 5,000 new Twitter followers in the hours following his post.

Townsend echoed Finchem's call for legislative action Friday afternoon.

Republican state Rep. Kelly Townsend speaks with a protester after a protest against Gov. Ducey's delay to reopen some businesses on May 1, 2020, in Apache Junction.
Republican state Rep. Kelly Townsend speaks with a protester after a protest against Gov. Ducey's delay to reopen some businesses on May 1, 2020, in Apache Junction.

"It is imperative that Arizona's legislators use our Article 2 power and choose the electors after everything we have seen here," Townsend wrote on Twitter in the afternoon. "I do not want to go down in history as doing nothing about it."

The Washington Post has reported that Trump has collected more than $200 million in campaign donations after he lost the national election as supporters cling to hopes that the election can be reversed through the courts or state legislatures. The campaign sent more than 500 email pleas for cash since the election that often, if not always, repeat misleading claims the election was stolen, according to the Post.

Townsend responded to Bowers later Friday, saying the speaker doesn't understand constitutional law.

"His constitutional law knowledge is not accurate and there is very good reason to believe that the election did not produce a winner," Townsend said Friday afternoon.

Why a change in electors isn't possible

The lawmakers may have received support from like-minded people online, but not from fellow lawmakers, which is a problem for their plan.

The Legislature would need to change the law to alter how Arizona chooses its state electors. And the Legislature is not in session after voting to adjourn in May.

The Legislature cannot convene on its own without support from two-thirds of the members in each chamber. That means Democrats would have to agree, which is unlikely. Republicans have narrow majorities – 31-29 in the House and 17-13 in the Senate.

Gov. Doug Ducey delivers his State of the State address with House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann behind him at the Arizona Capitol on Jan. 13, 2020.
Gov. Doug Ducey delivers his State of the State address with House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann behind him at the Arizona Capitol on Jan. 13, 2020.

The governor could call a special session, but any change in law would require a supermajority of lawmakers to take effect immediately rather than in a few months – meaning several more Republicans than Finchem and Townsend plus some Democrats would need to agree.

The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the job of deciding how presidential electors will be chosen, and the Arizona Legislature has tasked voters with choosing those electors on Election Day.

A "faithless elector" provision, backed by Arizona Republicans in 2017, requires the electors to cast their votes for the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in the state.

"Under a law the Republican-led Legislature passed just three years ago, the state’s electors are required to cast their votes for the candidates who received the most votes in the official statewide election canvass," Bowers reminded his fellow lawmakers Friday.

"Enacted after the 2016 presidential election, in which President Trump won the electoral college but not the popular vote, the law was aimed at ensuring that Arizona’s electors would remain faithful to the vote of the people."

Bowers echoed a recent opinion from lawyers at the Legislature that said even if lawmakers wanted to alter how Arizona chooses electors, such changes could not apply to this election because voters already have selected electors at the ballot box.

Finchem argued that the state laws are unconstitutional. Trump's legal team spent a large part of Monday's meeting trying to convince lawmakers the U.S. Constitution gives them the power to overturn the election if they choose.

Finchem rehashed those beliefs Friday.

"Article II, Sec 1, Par 2 of the Constitution explicitly vests the power to choose a slate of electors to the State Legislature," Finchem said on Twitter. "The Supremacy Clause, nullifies any State Statute saying otherwise."

'Theories, not proof' of fraud

Bowers said the Trump team met privately with Republican leaders on Tuesday to make the same plea for the Legislature to intervene.

"Both times, the Trump team made claims that the election was tainted by fraud but presented only theories, not proof," Bowers said, adding that Attorney General William Barr also is unconvinced of wide-scale election fraud.

The concerns about machine vote counts are based on unfounded rumors about Dominion Voting Systems, the voting system the county uses for ballot tabulating.

Dominion has responded by reassuring voters that it’s a nonpartisan company with no political ties, and by correcting misinformation about its systems, including the false rumor that Sharpies used on ballots would not work with the machines.

Perhaps unaware of the situation on the ground in Arizona, Trump late Friday thanked Bowers and Fann on Twitter for their request for an audit of the machines. His message came after Bowers foreclosed the option of overturning the election in Trump's favor.

Follow Ryan Randazzo on Twitter @UtilityReporter.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona GOP Speaker of the House rejects calls to overturn election