PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona judge on Thursday ordered Cochise County officials to certify the midterm election results by the end of the day, saying Republican supervisors broke the law when they refused to sign off on the vote count by this week’s deadline.
Two Republicans on the county’s three-member board of supervisors have not cited any problems with the election results. Rather, they say they aren’t satisfied that the machines used to tabulate ballots were properly certified for use in elections, though state and federal election officials have said they were.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbsfiled suit Monday, as did a local voter and a group of retirees, arguing the supervisors are required by law to certify the election, a process formally known as a canvass. Hobbs says she is required to hold the statewide certification on Dec. 5 and by law can delay it only until Dec. 8.
A lawyer representing Hobbs, Andy Gaona, said in court Thursday that scheduling conflicts may make it impossible to get the secretary of state, governor, attorney general and chief justice into one room for the statewide certification, as required by law, if it’s delayed past Monday.
Hobbs, a Democrat who was elected governor in November’s election, has warned that she may have to certify results without numbers from Cochise County if they aren’t received in time, an outcome that could tip the balance of several close races. The county’s 47,000 votes went overwhelmingly to Republicans.
The board members represented themselves in court after struggling to find someone willing to take the cases. The elected county attorney, who normally represents the board in legal disputes, refused to handle the cases, saying the supervisors acted illegally. The board voted hours before the hearing to hire a Phoenix-area attorney, but he was not able to get up to speed before the hearing and did not inform the court he was representing the supervisors.
Judge Casey McGinley declined to delay the hearing, saying the supervisors had plenty of warning they would need an attorney and delays would be problematic. He ordered the board to convene by 3:30 p.m. Mountain Time and complete the certification by 5 p.m.
Days before the election, the Republican supervisors abandoned plans to hand count all ballots, which the court said would be illegal, but demanded last week that the secretary of state prove vote-counting machines were legally certified before they would approve the election results. On Monday, they said they wanted to hear again about those concerns before taking a vote on certification. A meeting is scheduled for that purpose on Friday.
Supervisor Ann English, the board’s lone Democrat, urged the judge to order the board to immediately certify the election. She said Republican board member Tom Crosby is trying to stage a “smackdown between the secretary of state and the election deniers.”
“I think it’s a circus that doesn’t need to have to happen,” English said. “So I’ve had enough. I think the public’s had enough. So I’m asking for a swift resolution of this if that’s possible.”
There are two companies that are accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to conduct testing and certification of voting equipment, such as the electronic tabulators used in Arizona to read and count ballots.
Conspiracy theories surrounding this process surfaced in early 2021, focused on what appeared to be an outdated accreditation certificate for one of the companies that was posted online. Federal officials investigated and reported that an administrative error had resulted in the agency failing to reissue an updated certificate as the company remained in good standing and underwent audits in 2018 and in early 2021.
Officials also noted federal law dictates the only way a testing company can lose certification is for the commission to revoke it, which did not occur.