U.S.

Cochise County certifies election results as attorneys for Kari Lake and Mark Finchem sanctioned


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An Arizona judge on Thursday ordered the governing board of a ruby-red county in the state’s southeastern corner to certify the results of the Nov. 8 election, finding that its members lacked the authority to avoid a duty required by state law.

“You will meet today,” Superior Court Judge Casey F. McGinley told the three members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors. “You will campaign for the election no later than 5 o’clock.”

When the board met at 3:30 p.m., with one Republican absent, the remaining two supervisors, one Republican and one Democrat, voted to certify the results.

The court-ordered surrender ended a standoff in Cochise County that had threatened to derail the state’s process to validate the will of more than 2.5 million Arizona voters. The ensuing chaos could have undermined projected Republican victories for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and races for school superintendents across the country.

Katie Hobbs, Democratic Secretary of State and newly elected governor, acted aggressively to prevent this scenario. Her office sued the Cochise County Board on Monday after its members voted 2-1 against deadline for all counties to certify the results in a process known as canvassing the election. The state certification is scheduled for December 5.

The outcome in Cochise County played out as a federal judge, also on Thursday, sanctioned attorneys for Carrie Lake and Mark Finchem, the failed GOP candidates for governor and secretary of state, respectively. Taken together, the orders show how the judges scorn efforts to politicize ministerial roles and undermine the electoral administration.

The federal judge, John Tucci of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, wrote that the sanctions would “make clear that the Court will not condone litigants … promoting false narratives that unreasonably undermine public trust at a time of growing misinformation and mistrust in the democratic process.”

Lake and Finchem sued Maricopa County earlier this year in an attempt to require a manual vote count in that county, home to Phoenix, as well as in Pima County, home to Tucson. Tucci dismissed their lawsuit in August, ruling that Lake and Finchem made vague and unsubstantiated allegations about the voting machines’ flaws. They filed a complaint the following month.

In his new ruling Thursday, the judge found the sanctions in the case were appropriate “to send a message to those who might file similar frivolous lawsuits in the future.”

Tucci, who was nominated to the federal bench in 2013 by President Barack Obama, argued that the payment of attorney fees to Maricopa County was a proper sanction because the county and its attorneys had to “spend time and resources defending this frivolous trial, rather than preparing for the election that the plaintiffs’ claims unjustifiably raised a cloud of dust.”

Attorneys for Lake and Finchem remained unnamed in the judge’s order, which ordered Maricopa County to detail its attorneys’ fees within 14 days. Among the lawyers listed by the candidates in the lawsuits was Alan Dershowitz, a former Harvard law professor who previously advised former President Donald Trump.

Lake, Finchem, Dershowitz and other attorneys involved in the case did not respond to requests for comment.

The case was largely funded by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who promoted debunked claims of voter fraud. Lindell told The Washington Post on Thursday night that he had not yet spoken to lawyers about the sanctions and noted that they had appealed Tuchi’s dismissal of the main case. He said the sanctions were unfounded. “They had more experts and more evidence than any case in history,” he said. “It’s disgusting what judges do, including this one.”

The judge sanctioned only the applicants’ lawyers, not the applicants themselves, although he emphasized that “The Court does not find that the plaintiffs acted properly in this matter – far from it.”

“To sanction the plaintiffs’ attorney here is to not let the plaintiffs off the hook,” he added. “It is to sanction specific conduct by an attorney with the broader goal of deterring similar frivolous claims initiated by anyone, attorney or not.”

Lake, which has did not recognize his race, was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Thursday when the order came into Arizona, according to a person familiar with her activities who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss non-public events. She was scheduled to deliver remarks there and accept an award at an event organized by Moms for America, which it says is “a national movement of mothers to restore our culture of truth, family, freedom and the Constitution.”

Tucci’s order highlighted an already dramatic day in Arizona, where post-election battles thrust Cochise County into the spotlight. County supervisors appeared in court Thursday without legal representation, only securing an attorney this afternoon.

County Attorney Brian McIntyre declined to represent the supervisors in the matter, having previously notified them that their actions were illegal. They then tried to retain Brian Blem, the attorney who represented the cybersecurity firm Cyber ​​Ninjas in their random audit in the 2020 Arizona election, but he declined to take the case.

Tom Crosby, one of the two supervisors behind the move to delay the certification, asked the judge to delay the proceedings until next week so the attorney hired by the board, Daniel McCauley, could take up the case. The judge refused, saying any continuation of the proceedings was “not in the interests of justice”. McCauley did not respond to a request for comment.

The judge appeared to be considering simply ordering the supervisors to approve the canvas at a meeting already scheduled for Friday, asking a lawyer for the secretary of state’s office whether an extra day’s hold would inconvenience state officials responsible for conducting certification next week. Attorney Andy Gaona responded that Friday’s approval would be acceptable if certain conditions were met.

But the impassioned argument to order the board to act this afternoon came from its only Democratic member, Anne English. She disagreed with Monday’s vote to delay the ministerial move.

She warned the judge that Crosby intended to use Friday’s meeting as “something of a showdown between the secretary of state and the election deniers that he has on the agenda.” Crosby indicated that there were concerns about the equipment used in the election.

The judge, ordering the board to convene on Thursday, said such concerns were “no reason to delay the agitation”. He found that state law “unequivocally requires” counties to certify results by Nov. 28 unless vote counts are complete.

Crosby did not appear when the board met later Thursday to implement the judge’s order. He said in an email that he did not attend “on the advice of the board’s attorney,” but did not respond to other questions. The other Republican, Peggy Judd, said, “I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done.”

She said she felt compelled to vote to approve the results “because of a court decision and because of my own health and situations that are going on in our lives.”

But she added: “I don’t like being threatened.”

Behind the scenes, the secretary of state’s office has also issued stark warnings to at least one other county about the consequences of denying certification, according to emails released through a public records request.

As officials in GOP-controlled Mojave County gathered Monday to tackle the certification, Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Gould said, “Today I realized I had no choice but to vote yes or I would be arrested and charged with a crime.”

Communications from state election officials make clear what he meant.

Corey Lorick, director of state elections, wrote in an email earlier that day to the board of supervisors that “Our office will take all necessary legal action to ensure that Arizona voters have their votes counted, including forwarding the individual supervisors who vote not to certify for criminal enforcement.’

Ruby Kramer contributed to this report.


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