Arizona County Board Delays Certification of Election Results

The board that oversees a southeastern Arizona county whose Republican leaders had hoped to recount all ballots on Election Day on Friday delayed certifying the results of last week’s vote after hearing from a trio of conspiracy theorists who claimed the machines measurement were not certified.

The three men, or some combination of them, have filed at least four cases making similar claims before the Arizona Supreme Court since 2021, seeking to throw out the state’s 2020 election results. The court dismissed them all for lack of evidence, pending long after the election was certified, or asking for relief that could not be granted, in increasingly harsh language.

But Tom Rice, Brian Steiner and Daniel Wood managed to convince the two Republicans who control the Cochise County Board of Supervisors that their claims were valid enough to delay certification by the Nov. 28 deadline.

They claimed that the US Election Assistance Commission had allowed certifications for testing companies to lapse and that was invalidating the certifications of vote-counting equipment used across the state.

This was despite testimony from the state’s director of elections that the machines and the testing company were indeed certified.

“The equipment used in Cochise County is properly certified in accordance with federal and state laws and requirements,” state elections director Cory Lorick told the board. “Claims that SLI testing labs were not properly accredited are false.”

The move is the latest drama in the county with Republicans in recent weeks, which began when GOP Council members Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd voted to count all ballots in last week’s election by hand to determine whether the counts of machines were accurate.

Crosby also defended a lawsuit he and Judd filed against the county elections director earlier this week seeking to force a recount. They dropped the case against Lisa Marra on Wednesday.

“If the request of our presenters is satisfied by proof that our machines are indeed legal and legally accredited, then indeed we will have to accept the results,” Crosby said. “However, if the machines are not legally certified, then the reverse is also true. We cannot verify this election now.”

Crosby and Judd then voted to delay the certification, with Crosby saying he thought Wood, Steiner and Rice should have proof since they were “the experts.”

Democratic Supervisor Ann Gnsil was powerless to overturn them.

The delay jeopardizes state certification, set for Dec. 5, and at least one statewide recount.

Lorick issued a statement after the vote, pledging to take legal action for the board to accept the results. Under Arizona law, the official election canvass cannot be changed by elected county boards — their only role is to accept the numbers as they are tallied by their polling divisions.

“If they fail to do so, the Secretary (of State) will use all available legal means to compel compliance with Arizona law and protect the rights of Cochise County voters to have their votes counted,” Lorick said. .

All 15 Arizona counties face the same Nov. 28 deadline, but there is no indication that others are considering a similar contempt.

Once the state certifies the results on Dec. 5, there will be a recount in at least one statewide race.

That race, between Republican Abraham Hamadeh and Democrat Chris Mayes for attorney general, is so close that a recount is certain. As of Friday night, Mayes was less than 600 votes ahead with fewer ballots counted than the margin for a mandatory recount, which will be about 12,500 votes.

“It’s going to be close, and every vote counts,” Mayes said in a brief interview. “And we’re obviously in a recount, one way or another.”

Another statewide race is also up for a recount, but incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman conceded to Republican Tom Horne on Thursday. Horne is a former school superintendent who served two years as attorney general before losing the 2014 primary. He was more than 9,000 votes ahead Friday.

Horn criticized Hoffman for embracing progressive teaching and vowed to shut down any hint of “critical race theory,” which is not taught in public schools but is a hot-button issue for social conservatives.

Judd had said Wednesday that she would move to clear the way for the state count.

“We had to take a step back from everything we were trying to do and say, OK, we have to let this happen,” Judd told The Associated Press. “Because it’s the last thing we want to do to get in (Marra’s) way.”

There was no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines in 2020 or during this year’s midterm elections.

Arizona counting laws changed this year. The previous margin for a mandatory recount was 1/10 of 1%. Now it’s 0.5%.

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Follow AP’s election coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors playing out in the 2022 midterm elections.

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