Rural Arizona county delays confirmation of midterm results as election disputes continue



CNN

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

In a 2-1 vote Monday morning, the Republican majority on the Cochise County Board of Supervisors pushed the certification back to 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 about 47,000 county residents and could wreak havoc in the election if those votes are not counted.

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

CNN has reached out to the supervisors for comment.

MESA, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 09: Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake attends a campaign rally featuring former US President Donald Trump at Legacy Sports USA on October 9, 2022 in Mesa, Arizona.  Trump was stunned by Arizona GOP candidates ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.  (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Arizona official rejects Kari Lake’s vote count claim

The standoff between Cochise County officials and the Arizona Secretary of State’s office illustrates how election misinformation continues to stir controversy about the 2022 results in some corners of the country, even though many of the candidates who repeated 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 led to long lines at 6 p.m. one-third of the county’s polling stations. In a new letter to the state attorney general’s office — which had demanded an explanation of the problems — the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said “no voters were disenfranchised because of the difficulties the county had with some of its printers.”

Disputes over the results have arisen elsewhere.

In Pennsylvania, where counties also faced a Monday deadline to certify their ballots, local officials have faced an onslaught of petitions calling for recounts. And officials in Luzerne County, in northeastern Pennsylvania, deadlocked Monday on whether to certify the results, according to multiple media outlets. Election officials there did not respond to requests from CNN on Monday afternoon.

In a statement to CNN, Pennsylvania Department of State officials said they have reached out to Luzerne officials “to inquire about the board’s decision and their intended next steps.”

On Election Day, a paper shortage in Luzerne County led to 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 Mark Finchem, who both pushed Trump’s lies about 2020, have refused to concede their races as they continue to cast doubt on this year’s election results.

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Kari Lake will not commit to accepting 2022 election results

Lake’s campaign filed a lawsuit last week demanding more information from the Maricopa County Elections Department about the number of voters who checked in at the polls compared to the ballots cast. And Arizona’s GOP general candidate Abe Hamadeh — who, like Lake and Finchem, was backed by Trump — filed a lawsuit last week in state Superior Court in Maricopa County challenging the election results based on what the suit describes as errors in the management of the election.

Hamadeh trails his opponent, Democrat Kris Mayes, by 510 votes as their race heads to a recount. But the lawsuit is asking the court to issue an injunction barring the Arizona Secretary of State from certifying Mayes as the winner and asking the court to declare Hamadeh the winner. A recount cannot begin until the state’s votes are confirmed.

Alex Gulotta, Arizona’s state director for All Voting is Local, said the drama surrounding vote certification and the refusal of losing candidates to withdraw is part of an “infrastructure of voter denial” that has been built since the 2020 election in Arizona.

“These people will continue to try to find fertile ground for their efforts to undermine our election. They will not give up,” Gulotta said. “We had a whole series of suffragettes, many of whom were not elected.”

But their refusal to concede “was inevitable in Arizona, at least in this cycle, given the candidates. These are not good losers,” he added. “They said from the beginning they were going to be bad 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 that there was “no reason for us to delay.”

But Republican commissioners Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, who have cited allegations that the machines were not properly certified, voted to delay signing 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 tried to launch a sweeping hand-count audit of the midterm results, pitting them against Cochise’s director of elections and the county attorney, who warned the gambit could break the law.

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

State Elections Director Kori Lorick has 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 board to certify the results by Thursday at the latest.

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

“Absent this court’s intervention, the secretary has no choice but to complete statewide investigations by December 8 without Cochise County’s votes included,” her attorneys added.

If votes from this Republican stronghold somehow disappeared, it could flip two races to the Democrats: the contest for state inspector general and a congressional race in which Republican Juan Ciscomani has already been projected as the winner by CNN and other outlets.

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

But Republican Helen Purcell, a former Maricopa County recorder, and Tammy Patrick, a Democrat and the county’s former federal compliance officer, warned that “a Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors could end up disenfranchising their own constituents and giving Democrats even more victories in the middle.”

This story has been updated with further developments.

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