Arizona county certifies midterm election results after judge orders



CNN

Officials in rural Cochise County, Arizona, on Thursday confirmed the results of the county’s midterm elections — ending a high-stakes confrontation with state officials over the county’s failure to sign off on the results by the legal deadline.

The vote came 2-0, shortly after a judge ordered the county’s three-member board of supervisors to certify the results at 5 p.m. local time.

Cochise was the last of 15 Arizona counties to ratify the election. The standoff between the county’s Republican officials and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who is the state’s governor-elect, has drawn national attention, showing how election misinformation has grown in the country since the 2020 election How deeply some areas take root.

Two Republicans on the three-member committee delayed certification over concerns about whether the vote-counting machines were properly certified. The secretary of state’s office said the machines had been tested and certified, arguing that recalcitrant board members were advancing debunked conspiracy theories.

Statewide certification of the Arizona results is scheduled for Monday.

Peggy Judd, one of the Republican overseers who initially voted to delay the certification, said Thursday she was “not ashamed of anything I’ve done,” but voted “yes” in response to the court order ticket. Ann English, the chairwoman of Cochise’s only Democrat on her supervisory board, joined her in confirming the election.

Those who want to change the way elections are done need to lobby the legislature to change state laws, English said. “We responded to the legislature,” she said. “We don’t make legislation for the country.”

A third member of the board, Republican Tom Crosby, did not attend the meeting.

Earlier on Thursday, High Court judge Casey McGinley told regulators they had a “non-discretionary” duty to certify.

Hobbs joined a group of retirees in suing to ask the board to certify the results. The committee’s initial delay could have disenfranchised about 47,000 voters, Hobbs said.

McKinley said whatever concerns regulators or the public had about the counting machines “wasn’t a reason to delay canvassing” the results.

His ruling comes after weeks of controversy in the Republican stronghold, as the Republican majority on the board sought to express disapproval of the machines. At one point, two Republican supervisors on the three-member board pushed unsuccessfully for a full vote count audit of November’s election results.

Arizona has been a hotbed of election conspiracy theories as President Joe Biden upended the once-reliable red state in 2020, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the Grand Canyon state in nearly a quarter-century. In public meetings in Cochise and elsewhere, local officials were clamored to exercise their main ministerial certification function to subvert the election.

Earlier this year, a court ordered the certification of primary election results in Otero County, New Mexico, after the local board voted against certification, saying they did not trust tabulators.

“On the one hand, it’s a hyperlocal issue,” said Ryan Snow, a consultant with the Voting Rights Project at the Legal Civil Rights Lawyers’ Committee. “But on the other hand, it also gets to the heart of what it means to live in a democracy. You need to be able to count votes and votes.”

He added: “Since 2020, we have had a new battle in the struggle for democracy, which is: after the votes are counted, whether to authenticate them or not.”

During Thursday’s court hearing, Crosby tried to delay the proceedings to get the lawyers regulators hired hours before the hearing ready. The judge rejected the request.

English, chairman of the board, implored the judge to force regulators to act quickly. “I’ve had enough,” she said. “I think the public has had enough.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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