PHOENIX (AP) — A rural Arizona county has certified its by-elections results on Thursday, following the orders of a judge who ruled that Republican supervisors broke the law when they refused to sign off on the vote count by this week’s deadline.
Two Republicans on the three-member Cochise County Board of Supervisors balked for weeks about certifying the election, even though the deadline passed Monday. They did not point to any problems with the election results. Rather, they say they were not satisfied that the machines used to tabulate ballots were properly certified for use in elections, even though state and federal election officials claimed they were.
state Secretary Kate Hobbsfiled a lawsuit Monday, as did a local voter and a group of retirees who asked a judge to force supervisors to certify the election — a process officially known as canvassing. Hobbs said she is required to obtain statewide certification on Dec. 5, and by law can only delay it until Dec. 8.
At the end of Thursday’s hearing, Judge Casey McGinley ordered the supervisors to meet within 90 minutes and approve the campaign by the end of the day.
“I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done,” said Supervisor Peggy Judd, one of two Republicans who twice blocked certification. “And today I feel that I have to, because of a court decision and because of my own health and situations that are going on in our lives, I feel that I have to follow what the judge did today.”
The board’s other Republican, Tom Crosby, skipped the meeting.
Two hours earlier, Supervisor Ann English, the board’s only Democrat, urged the judge to order the board to immediately certify the election and not wait another day. She said Crosby was trying to set up a “showdown between the secretary of state and the election deniers” at a meeting scheduled for Friday.
“I think it’s a circus that doesn’t need to happen,” English said. “So I have enough. I think society has had enough. So please resolve this quickly if possible.
The vote allows statewide certification to proceed as planned on Monday.
Hobbs, a Democrat who was elected governor in November’s election, warned he might have to certify statewide results without Cochise County numbers if they weren’t received in time, a result that could have tipped the scales in several close races . The county’s 47,000 votes went overwhelmingly Republican.
Councilors represented themselves in court after struggling to find someone willing to take on the cases. The district attorney-elect, who typically represents the board in litigation, declined to pursue the cases, saying the supervisors acted illegally. The board voted hours before the hearing to hire a Phoenix-area attorney, but he failed to take the job before the hearing and did not inform the court that he was representing the supervisors.
Days before the Nov. 8 election, Republican supervisors abandoned plans to manually count all ballots, which the court said would be illegal, but demanded last week that the secretary of state prove the vote-counting machines were legally certified before approve the election results. On Monday, they said they wanted to hear about those concerns again before voting on certification. A meeting is planned for this purpose on Friday.
There are two companies that are accredited by the US Election Assistance Commission to perform testing and certification of voting equipment, such as the electronic tabulators used in Arizona to read and count ballots.
Conspiracy theories surrounding this process emerged in early 2021, focusing on what appeared to be an outdated accreditation certificate for one of the companies that was posted online. Federal officials investigated and said an administrative error caused the agency to fail to reissue an updated certificate as the company remained in good standing and was subject to audits in 2018 and early 2021.
Officials also noted that federal law dictates the only way a testing company can lose a certificate is if the commission revokes it, which hasn’t happened.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Phoenix sanctioned lawyers who represented Carrie Lake and Mark Finchem, the defeated Republican candidates for governor and secretary of state, respectively, in a case requiring a manual recount of all ballots.
Judge John Tucci, an Obama appointee, agreed with Maricopa County attorneys who argued the lawsuit was based on frivolous information and ordered the attorneys to pay the county’s legal fees.
The attorneys “made false, misleading and unsupported factual allegations” in their lawsuit, Tucci wrote. He said the court would not acquit lawyers “spreading false narratives that unreasonably undermine public confidence” in the democratic process.
Lawyers for Lake and Finchem, including renowned Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. They told the court that their allegations were “legally sound and supported by strong evidence”.
This story corrects an earlier version that Mark Finchem was the Republican nominee for attorney general. He was a candidate for Secretary of State.
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