Arizona Government Agencies Reconsider Full Hand-Count and OK Audit
The county attorney and state authorities warned of severe legal repercussions, so the two Republicans on the three-member Cochise County Board of Supervisors in southeast rural Arizona withdrew their earlier insistence for a full hand count of every ballot in the Nov. 8 election using a group of volunteers already vetted and trained for the task.
Supervisors Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby had requested a full hand count in addition to the usual machine count, but after a lengthy meeting, they joined the majority decision. Voters in the predominately Republican county put great pressure on them because they thought Donald Trump was lying about election fraud in 2020.
Board Chairwoman Ann English, a Democrat who had urged her fellow supervisors to change their minds, joined the other two as the third supervisor. She had claimed that the county’s insurance would not defend it against anticipated litigation.
County Attorney Brian McIntyre, a Republican, pleaded with the judge not to try to mandate this separate hand count. According to him, such behavior would be illegal, and supervisors may face civil liability on an individual basis.
According to the first proposal, volunteers wanted to “participate in this fashion to encourage people (including a few of the participants) who have lost trust in elections to realize that elections are dependable and secure in our county.”
After withdrawing from the first proposal, the supervisors then voted 2-1 in favor of a second one, with English voting against it. This second proposal called for the county recorder or another election official to organize a hand-count audit in all precincts to ensure that the machine count matched it. That scheme was likewise deemed illegal by McIntyre.
According to state law, once all the votes have been counted, a limited portion of ballots in particular races already undergo a required hand-count with bipartisan teams to verify the accuracy of the voting machines.
Tuesday morning’s county board meeting was scheduled to include additional debate on the subject.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in response to a similar hand-count drive in remote Nye County, Nevada, claiming it could lead to the illegal revelation of election results. It is one of the first counties in the country to take action in response to alleged election fraud.
The state Supreme Court of Nevada decided on Friday that Nye may begin hand-counting mail-in ballots two weeks prior to the election, but it would not be permitted to webcast the tallying and would need to modify its plans in other ways.
In August, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Mark Finchem, a Republican candidate for secretary of state, and Kari Lake, a Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, seeking to force the state’s officials to manually count ballots in November due to fictitious voting machine issues.
There is no proof that fraud, flaws with the machinery used to count the ballots, or other voting-related issues affected the outcome of the 2020 election in Arizona or anywhere else in the United States.
Recorder David Stevens, a Republican in Cochise County, has stated that a hand count could raise questions about results being improperly leaked before they are officially recorded at 8 p.m. on Election Day. In the county, 62,000 votes were cast in the general election of 2020.
In a letter to the board, Democratic candidate for governor and Secretary of State of Arizona Katie Hobbs encouraged the board to give up its attempt to force a hand count, acknowledging that it would be against the law. Her office handles state elections.
The letter stated that the Secretary would “take all available legal action” to ensure that Cochise County conducted the 2022 General Election in accordance with Arizona law, putting at risk the accuracy and integrity of our elections if the Board votes to move forward with a full count. The Secretary also implied that the board members voting in favor could be held personally liable for their decisions.
Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for the Board’s proposed actions, it said, as we are all good stewards of public funds. We fervently hope that the Board will heed the counsel it has retained on this matter and that no such action is required.