A rural Arizona county is bucking the system. Refusing to bow to pressure from the left and despite dire warnings of litigation, the southern Arizona county added a step to “protect their voters from potential fraud.”
The Cochise County Board of Supervisors, situated 90 miles southeast of Tucson, voted 2-1 to approve a measure requiring a full hand count following the November 8 election.
During the four-hour meeting, including public testimony, Republicans Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd voted for the measure drafted by Crosby, while Democrat Ann English voted against it.
“State Elections Services Director Kori Lorick, called into the meeting on behalf of the Secretary of State’s Office, said the board would face a lawsuit if the hand-count proposal passed,” AZCentral.com reported. “A state lawmaker also warned the board that he would request that the attorney general investigate the board’s move, which could result in the withholding of state funds to Cochise County.”
Katie Hobbs, former Arizona Secretary of State and contender for Arizona governor, said the measure is “illegal” and “risks the integrity and accuracy of the election.”
Cochise County plans to vote to hand count every single race on every single ballot—w/ Election Day just 18 days away & early voting already started. That’s illegal & risks the integrity & accuracy of the election. I’ve warned them: If they proceed, I’ll take legal action. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/mqJN3KzpCa
— Secretary Katie Hobbs (@SecretaryHobbs) October 21, 2022
Republican nominee for governor Kari Lake’s official campaign Twitter account immediately fired back, calling Hobbs “a one-woman, election Integrity wrecking machine.”
@katiehobbs is threatening to sue Cochise County for efforts to protect their voters from potential fraud.
Katie Hobbs is a one-woman, election Integrity wrecking machine.
She needs to recuse herself from ANY involvement in running this election.
— Kari Lake War Room (@KariLakeWarRoom) October 21, 2022
The community of approximately 125,000 is heavily Republican and citizens pushed for the measure to ensure election integrity and protect voters from potential fraud despite the Goliath battle ahead, Judd explained during the meeting.
“It’s about the people, it’s about our right to vote and how our votes are counted and feel confident in the election process,” she said.
But officials see a steep climb for the county that sits on the Arizona-Mexico border with state politicians weighing-in in the hours following the vote.
Breaking: State @RepJoelJohn warns Cochise County supervisors that if they move forward with hand-counting ballots, he will file an SB1487 complaint with the AG’s office.
John is a Republican who recently endorsed Adrian Fontes. pic.twitter.com/auVQ8qoGcc
— Jen Fifield (@JenAFifield) October 24, 2022
The measure will cause voter confusion and it will be “impossible to complete an accurate hand count of an election with dozens of races on the ballot without redirecting critical resources needed to run the election,” Lorick said. “Attempting to implement a full hand count at this late stage would jeopardize the county’s ability to conduct a fair and accurate election.”
Residents who spoke at the meeting in support of the measure protecting voters from potential fraud said they fear voting machines and accurate reporting following the controversy of the 2020 presidential election in which 61,000 of Cochise County’s 85,000 registered voters cast ballots.
“It is a vote, not by the people, but by a private company and those conspiring with those private companies,” one resident said of machine-counted ballots.
Even the chair of the Coconino County, Arizona Democratic Party understood the residents’ angst and desire for more transparency in elections, calling the Cochise County meeting “an opportunity for a lot of ordinary citizens to stand up and call out election subversion, voter suppression, and conspiracy theories.”
This Cochise County Board of Supervisors meeting has been an opportunity for a lot of ordinary citizens to stand up and call out election subversion, voter suppression, and conspiracy theories. A lot of outrage the Republicans maybe didn’t bank on when they planned this stunt.
— Ann Heitland (@AnnHeitland) October 24, 2022
The Board was warned that legal costs will not be absorbed by the Arizona Counties Insurance Pool. A spokesperson for the organization that provides workers’ compensation, auto, property and casualty coverage for twelve of Arizona’s fifteen counties said it would be “improper” to expect other counties to pay Cochise County’s attorney bills. In the event of a lawsuit, Cochise County will not be covered by insurance nor have an attorney hired for them.
“It would be up to the county to make these proper decisions as how they would defend any lawsuits. In my experience there will be lawsuits over this, no matter what you do in this situation there will be lawsuits,” he said.
Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre warned the board that no authorization for a separate hand count exists in Arizona law and county employees cannot be asked to violate the law, “even if you conclude what the law reads despite my advice.”
Many Arizona counties have discussed similar measures only to be thwarted by threats of impending legal battles.
“Ultimately the Legislature is the proper place to address this. That is how government works, not unilaterally deciding to go a new direction because of the will of an admittedly vocal portion of the public,” McIntyre said.
But Cochise County was steadfast in its support of the measure, with the majority of the hundreds who attended the meeting vocally demanding action.
“I’d like to take this chance. My heart and my work have been in it and I don’t want to back down. I might go to jail,” Judd said following the vote.
The Arizona Legislative Council weighed in on the issue in a memo to Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, that said hand-counting ballots in addition to using the electronic tabulating equipment is prohibited “unless it becomes impracticable to count all or some of the ballots with tabulating equipment.”
Cochise County historically hand-counted two percent of votes to ensure machine integrity.
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