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Judge orders Cochise County to certify election

 

The county-by-county election canvass certification done by boards of supervisors typically slips by as a bureaucratic banality. 

But following the 2022 general election, Cochise County’s board declined to certify before the state deadline and supervisors across other rural counties nearly followed suit.  

Though every other county certified on time, some supervisors voted to approve their canvass in duress, citing problems at polling places in Maricopa County, and Cochise County’s refusal to certify.  

Cochise County ran the risk of disenfranchising voters and upending federal, state and local races by refusing to approve the canvass. But a Pima county judge today ordered the board to meet and certify its election today. 

Former election officials and elections experts called Cochise County’s course and subsequent ripple effect in other rural counties “unprecedented,” and fear the credence granted to election denial in the process.  

Tammy Patrick has worked in elections since 2003. She said a county voting not to certify an election is incredibly rare. She said certification “seems like a predetermined outcome,” but noted counties can only make the decision not to certify when there is proven evidence of fraud or criminality. 

“This isn’t some arbitrary thing where you have a handful of individuals that get to negate the will of the people,” Patrick said.  

Under Arizona law, boards of supervisors must approve the canvass of the county election canvass no later than 20 days after Election Day.  

The statewide canvass is due Dec. 5 and could be postponed to Dec. 8 at the very latest. 

The state’s Elections Procedure Manual says the board has a “non-discretionary duty” to certify and has no authority to “reject election results.”  

Cochise County supervisors Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby voted to keep the vote on certification tabled beyond the state deadline, citing distrust in tabulation machines. 

The supervisors faced lawsuits and potential criminal charges for their refusal to certify.  

On Thursday, Judge Casey McGinley ordered the Board of Supervisors to meet the same day and approve the canvass of the election no later than 5 p.m. He found the board violated Arizona statute and the Elections Procedures Manual by refusing to vote.  

In contrast to Cochise, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to certify the 2022 election on the deadline, Nov. 28, though they faced some heckling, threats and a curse during public comment time.  

Maricopa County remains at the center of election fraud claims as some polling centers experienced printing and tabulation problems on Election Day.  

Helen Purcell served as Maricopa County recorder from 1988 to 2017. She noted those claims, specifically ones hinging on the technical difficulties seen on Election Day, as well as the backup plan to put ballots into “door 3,” fail to hold water when put into context of prior elections. 

Purcell said the county has used “door 3” in nearly every election since 1986 in the case of technical difficulties, which she noted were not outliers either.  

“We have issues in every election. I’ve never known of an election, that we didn’t have some issues,” Purcell said.  

Every other county certified its election by the deadline. But a handful saw the same election skepticism flying around meeting rooms, with the bulk of grievances aimed at Maricopa County.  

Mohave County was initially set to certify its election on Nov. 21, but delayed the vote until Nov. 28. Supervisor Hildy Angius said in the initial meeting she always intended to certify by the deadline but delayed the initial vote in a “statement of solidarity,” with counties like Cochise and the Arizona Republican Party.  

At its meeting on Nov. 28, the board met in the morning. Supervisor Ron Gould said he had heard from constituents that they did not trust electronic tabulation machines. And he pushed for an independent investigation into Maricopa County.  

Supervisor Angius said she wanted to investigate Cochise’s decision to delay before voting and examine her options to delay or reject the certification. The board then took a recess and reconvened later in the afternoon and unanimously voted to certify.  

Angius and Gould voted “yes” under duress, expressing their frustration with Maricopa County and the lack of avenues for a board to reject the election canvass. 

“I found out today that I have no choice but to vote ‘aye’ or I’ll be arrested and charged with a felony,” Gould said. “I don’t think that’s what our founders had in mind.”  

A similar situation played out in Yavapai County.  

Despite many pleas from the public, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors also voted unanimously to approve the county’s election results. 

“Recall,” one attendee shouted shortly after the vote. 

Several of the supervisors were sympathetic to speakers asking them not to certify based on alleged issues with elections in Yavapai County or, more frequently, the tabulation problems at some polling places in Maricopa County.  

However, the supervisors ultimately accepted the legal advice provided by the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office. 

“This board only has the authority that the Legislature provides it,” Deputy County Attorney Thomas Stoxen said. “And only in one instance can they delay the canvass, and that’s if they don’t have all the polling or there’s missing polling place information – that is not an issue in Yavapai County.” 

Stoxen also reiterated that potential election challenges and recounts in close races cannot move forward until the canvass is complete. 

Yavapai Supervisor Craig Brown and Board Chair Mary Mallory indicated they would like to meet later to consider passing a resolution related to this election, though it was unclear exactly what the resolution would include. 

In an interview, Brown said, despite his own misgivings about Maricopa County, he stands firm with the oath he took to uphold Arizona state law and the Constitution.  

“We have a job to do, and we have to do it within the law,” Brown said. “I don’t get to pick and choose which laws I enforce.” 

Brown said protecting the votes of his constituents ultimately took priority over claims of election fraud from a select few.  

“It’s not that we’re trying to stop the voice of the people,” Brown said “What we’re trying to say is let’s talk the truth. Let’s not talk innuendos and rumors.”  

Yellow Sheet editor Wayne Schutsky contributed to this report. 

 

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