Rural Arizona county delays certification of midterm results as election disputes linger



CNN

Officials in a rural Arizona county delayed certification of the November midterm elections on Monday, missing the legal deadline and leading the Arizona Secretary of State’s office to sue over the county’s failure to approve the results.

By a 2-1 vote Monday morning, the Republican majority on the Cochise County Board of Supervisors pushed back certification until Friday, citing concerns about voting machines. Because Monday was the deadline for all 15 Arizona counties to certify their results, Cochise’s action could jeopardize the votes of some 47,000 county residents and could wreak havoc in the election if those votes are not counted.

In the lawsuit brought by the office of Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — a Democrat who will serve as the state’s next governor — officials said failure to certify election results violates the state law and could “potentially disenfranchise” county voters.

CNN has reached out to supervisors for comment.

The clash between Cochise County officials and the Arizona Secretary of State’s office illustrates how election misinformation continues to fuel controversy over the 2022 results in some corners of the country, even as many candidates who echoed former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election were defeated in November.

A crowd of grassroots activists showed up at a special meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to loudly protest the county’s election administration procedures during a public comment portion of the meeting after problems with printers at polling places on Election Day resulted in long lines at about one-third of polling places in the county. In a new letter to the state attorney general’s office – which had requested an explanation of the issues – the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said that “no voter has been disenfranchised because of difficulties encountered by the county with some of its printers”.

Disputes over the results erupted elsewhere.

In Pennsylvania, where counties also faced a Monday deadline to certify their vote in the general election, local officials faced a flurry of petitions demanding recounts. And officials in Luzerne County, in northeastern Pennsylvania, deadlocked Monday on whether to certify the results, according to multiple news outlets. Election officials did not respond to CNN’s inquiries Monday afternoon.

In a statement to CNN, Pennsylvania State Department officials said they have contacted Lucerne officials “to inquire about the board’s decision and anticipated next steps.”

On Election Day, a paper shortage in Luzerne County prompted a court-ordered extension of in-person voting.

Arizona, another key battleground state, has long been a cauldron of election conspiracies. GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and GOP Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem, who both pushed Trump’s 2020 lies, refused to concede their races, as they continue to sow doubts about the results of this year’s elections.

Lake’s campaign filed a lawsuit last week seeking more information from the Maricopa County Department of Elections on the number of voters who registered at polling places versus ballots cast. And Arizona GOP attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh — who, like Lake and Finchem, was backed by Trump — filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County state superior court last week challenging the claims. election results based on what the lawsuit describes as errors in the handling of the election.

Hamadeh trails his Democratic opponent Kris Mayes by 510 votes as their race heads to a recount. But the lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting the Arizona secretary of state from certifying Mayes as the winner and asks the court to declare Hamadeh the winner. A recount cannot begin until the state’s votes are certified.

Alex Gulotta, Arizona state director for All Voting is Local, said the vote certification drama and the refusal of losing candidates to back down is part of an “election denial infrastructure” that has been building for a long time. the 2020 elections in Arizona.

“These people will continue to try to find fertile ground for their efforts to undermine our elections. They’re not going to give up,” Gulotta said. “We had a whole slate of Holocaust deniers, many of whom weren’t elected.”

But their refusal to concede “was inevitable in Arizona, at least in this cycle, given the candidates. They are not good losers,” he added. “They said from the start that they would be sore losers.”

In Cochise County, Republican officials on the County Board of Supervisors argued for the delay, citing concerns about voting machines.

Ann English, the Democratic chairwoman, argued there was “no reason for us to delay”.

But Republican Commissioners Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, who cited allegations that the machines were not properly certified, voted to delay the signing of the results. Monday’s action marked the second time the Republican-controlled board has delayed certification. And it marked the latest effort by Republicans on the board to register their disapproval of vote-counting machines. Earlier this month, they attempted to mount an extensive manual audit of midterm results, pitting them against the Cochise Chief Electoral Officer and the county attorney, who warned the gambit could violate the law.

State election officials said concerns expressed by the Republican majority about vote-counting machines are rooted in debunked conspiracy theories.

State Chief Electoral Officer Kori Lorick confirmed in writing that the voting machines had been tested and certified — a point Hobbs reiterated in Monday’s lawsuit. She is asking the court to compel the council to certify the results by Thursday.

An original deadline of December 5 had been set for statewide certification. In the lawsuit, Hobbs’ attorneys said state law allows for a slight delay if his office hasn’t received a county’s results, but not after Dec. 8 — or 30 days after the election.

“Absent the intervention of this Court, the Secretary will have no choice but to complete the statewide poll by December 8th without including Cochise County’s votes” , added his lawyers.

If the votes from this Republican stronghold weren’t counted, it could upset two races for Democrats: the contest for state superintendent and a race for Congress in which Republican Juan Ciscomani has already been projected as the winner by CNN and other media.

In a recent opinion piece published in The Arizona Republic, two former Maricopa County election officials said the courts are likely to step in and force Cochise to certify the results.

But Republican Helen Purcell, a former Maricopa County archivist, and Tammy Patrick, a Democrat and former county federal compliance officer, warned that “a Republican-controlled oversight board could end up disenfranchising their own constituents. of their rights and give the Democrats even more midterm victories.

This story has been updated with additional developments.


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