The Cochise County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement to reorganize election duties under Recorder David Stevens in a 2-1 partisan vote.
According to the agreement, Stevens now serves as the interim elections director.
He replaces Lisa Marra, the county’s former election director who resigned from her post citing a “hostile” work environment throughout the lead-up and aftermath of the 2022 general election.
Stevens is tasked with handling personnel and budget for all elections, receiving all nomination papers and petitions of candidates, preparing certificates of nomination and election, distributing the official canvass and appointing an elections director with approval from the board.
The board still maintains power over budgetary approvals and canvassing the election.
On Monday, Josh Bendor, solicitor general for attorney general Kris Mayes, sent a letter to County Attorney Brian McIntyre informing them “the Attorney General has serious questions about the legality of the Board’s intended course of action.”
He cites statutes and case law barring the board from going beyond the duties given by the legislature.
Bendor points out the county has not cited any basis to delegate the duties “beyond what the Legislature has prescribed” and asks for the board to provide legal authority for the draft agreement.
Before approving the item Feb. 28, Democratic Supervisor Ann English said she wanted to hold off voting on the item because of concerns raised by the AG. “The Attorney General doesn’t seem to be happy with this agreement,” English said.
Republican Supervisor Peggy Judd said she wanted to move forward, doubting the severity of the attorney general’s threat.
“It’s not accusatory enough,” Judd said.
She said she would rather approve it and negotiate with the attorney general after the fact.
English said the board was “acting in an inappropriate and unadvised manner today.” She said Judd and Supervisor Tom Crosby had “vilified the election process.”
The board approved the item on the usual 2-1 vote, with Crosby and Judd in support and English in opposition.
“As in other times, it’s two to one. It does pass and it is so ordered, and I hope that we don’t regret it,” English said.
Input from the public alternated from ardent supporters and staunch opponents of the move.
Those in opposition pointed out Stevens’ ties to the election denial movement. Stevens works as a director of the Election Fairness Institute, an “election integrity” nonprofit run by Republican former Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem.
Stevens also assisted the supervisors in attempting an expanded hand count of ballots, which the Secretary of State and a superior court judge deemed illegal.
Other speakers continued to raise unsubstantiated concerns about tabulation machines and “illegal equipment and processes.” And three residents brought up the claims of bribery and cartel ties lodged at lawmakers and elected officials last week.
The board’s meetings have remained contentious since October, as evidenced by another item on the agenda. Along with delegating election duties, the board approved a $19,614.43 payment to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department for a security detail it provided at board meetings leading up to and following the 2022 election.T