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Judge dismisses challenge to Arizona presidential primary

People wait in line to vote in the primary in Chandler, Ariz., on March 22. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic)

People wait in line to vote in the primary in Chandler, Ariz., on March 22. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic)

PHOENIX — A judge on Tuesday threw out a challenge to the results of Arizona’s problematic presidential primary despite evidence that there were glitches in the election.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Gass ruled that a Tucson man challenging the results hadn’t proven fraud and hadn’t shown long lines in Maricopa County or registration problems statewide with the election would have changed the results.

“I’m going to find that as a matter of law … plaintiff just hasn’t met their burden,” Gass said. “To prove fraud, it’s clear and convincing evidence. It’s an incredibly high burden. And it’s a burden that’s very difficult to prove.”

The ruling came at the close of two days of testimony. Gass noted that while there were problems with the election, throwing out the results would mean that more than 1 million people who voted in the March 22 primary would be disenfranchised.

“I can’t find that one, there were illegal votes and two … I can’t find it would have made a difference in the outcome of the election,” he said. “The election would have been the same.”

Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary over Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump beat John Kasich and Ted Cruz for the Republican win.

John Brakey sued, saying long lines caused by cutting the number of polling places in Maricopa County and registration problems statewide merited throwing out the results. Attorneys for the state and counties argued the problems didn’t rise to the level of misconduct needed to discount the results.

Gass heard testimony from voters frustrated by the long lines and registration issues during the two-day hearing. In the end, the evidence Brakey’s attorney, Michael Kielsky, was able to present wasn’t enough to convince the judge.

“I was hoping that the judge would see the evidence for what it was, that there were serious issues, primarily with Maricopa, but throughout Arizona involving election integrity,” Kielsky said. “We presented as much evidence as we were able to muster on short notice.”

Gass promised to issue a formal written ruling Wednesday.

A separate lawsuit was filed in federal court by the state and national Democratic parties and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. It seeks greater court oversight of voting location choices in Maricopa County and a ban on failing to count otherwise-valid ballots cast in an incorrect precinct.

The county has acknowledged it made mistakes in operating the primary by dramatically cutting the number of polling places and widely underestimating Election Day turnout.

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into whether the county violated voting-rights laws.