After refusing to certify its election, Cochise County faces lawsuits to force it to do so
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs on Monday filed a lawsuit to force Cochise County officials to approve the results of this month’s election after Republicans on the board of supervisors failed to meet a deadline to canvass the election.
The board’s refusal to approve the election results stems from a stubborn insistence that the electronic tabulators the county uses have not been certified under state and federal law. Not only is that false, but state and federal election officials have gone out of their way to make sure that GOP county supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd know that the machines are properly certified.
State law says that county officials “shall” canvass the election within 20 days. In her lawsuit, Hobbs said the board is acting illegally “based on demonstrably false allegations” about the machines that are “frivolous.”
And if the court doesn’t step in and force the county to certify its election, then Hobbs will have no choice but to exclude Cochise County votes from the statewide canvass, which is scheduled to take place Dec. 5 at the Capitol in Phoenix. Under state law, that statewide certification of the election must take place no later than Dec. 8.
Were that to happen, it would almost certainly change the outcome of some races. Cochise County is heavily Republican, and were votes in the county excluded, Republicans Tom Horne and Juan Ciscomani would go from winning their races for state superintendent of public instruction and Congress, respectively, to losing.
“The Board’s unprecedented inaction should not disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in Cochise County,” Andy Gaona, an attorney for Hobbs, wrote in the lawsuit. “The Secretary thus brings this action to ensure that those voters’ voices are heard and their votes counted.”
If that happens, it “will cause irreparable harm” to all Arizonans, not just those voters whose votes would be ignored.
“In the current climate, this will instill further confusion and doubt into our election system,” Gaona wrote.
Cochise County officials first balked at canvassing their election results on Nov. 18, when the board held a special meeting to discuss its legal duty to approve the election. During the meeting, members of the public testified — including “various conspiracy theorists” who have a track record of “filing spurious lawsuits” seeking to overturn elections, according to Hobbs’ lawsuit — and falsely told the supervisors the machines used to tally the votes were not properly certified.
But the supervisors also heard from county Elections Director Lisa Marra and State Elections Director Kori Lorick, who both said those claims were pure fiction. On Nov. 21, Lorick sent the board a letter warning the supervisors that failing to canvass the election by the Monday deadline would prompt legal action.
In that letter, Lorick also reiterated that the machines used in every Arizona county, including Cochise, had been properly certified by the state and federal governments. She also attached a letter from the Election Assistance Commission, the federal entity that certifies all election equipment used in the United States, confirming that the machines used in Cochise County were properly certified and accredited.
But the board opted to ignore the warning when it met Nov. 28 and voted 2-1 to table the election canvass until Dec. 2. Supervisor Ann English, the only Democrat on the three-member board, was the lone vote to proceed with the canvass.
Judd last week told VoteBeat that she has a hard time trusting “any computer.”
“I don’t even trust my cell phone, and it’s a flip phone, and I don’t trust it. It doesn’t always give me results, it’s not always there for me. So, it’s a difficult thing,” she said.
Alex Gulotta, the state director for All Voting is Local Arizona, said Cochise County was undermining democracy by refusing to approve its election results.
“It’s astounding that Cochise County officials failed to certify the election results,” Gulotta said. “The refusal to certify the results is directly tied to those who would rather sow distrust in our electoral process than protect our democracy and ensure that all votes are counted.”
Hobbs’ lawsuit isn’t the only one seeking to compel the Cochise County Board of Supervisors to canvass its election. Earlier in the day, the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans and a Cochise County voter filed a lawsuit that made many of the same arguments that Hobbs and the Secretary of State’s Office did.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.