PHOENIX – The board overseeing a southeastern Arizona county whose Republican leaders had hoped to recount all ballots on Friday’s Election Day delayed certifying vote results last week after hearing from a trio of conspiracy theorists who claimed that counting machines are not certified.
The three men, or some combination of them, have filed at least four lawsuits making similar claims before the Arizona Supreme Court since 2021, seeking to have the state’s 2020 election results thrown out. The court has dismissed all of them for lack of evidence , waiting too long after the election is certified, or asking for relief that cannot be granted, in increasingly coarse language.
But Tom Rice, Brian Steiner and Daniel Wood were able to convince the two Republicans who control the Cochise County Board of Supervisors that their claims had enough merit to delay certification until the Nov. 28 deadline.
They argued that the US Election Assistance Commission had allowed certifications for testing companies to lapse, voiding the certifications of vote counting equipment used across the state.
This was despite testimony from the state election director that the machines and the testing company were indeed certified.
“The equipment used in Cochise County is properly certified under both federal and state laws and requirements,” state Elections Director Corey Lorick told the board. “Claims that SLI testing labs were not properly accredited are false.”
The move is the latest drama in the Republican-heavy district in recent weeks, which began when GOP board members Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd voted to have all ballots in last week’s election counted by hand to determine whether the machine count is accurate.
Crosby also defended a lawsuit he and Judd filed against the county elections director earlier this week trying to force a recount by hand. They dismissed the case against Lisa Mara on Wednesday.
“If our presenters’ request is met by proof that our machines are indeed legitimate and legitimately accredited, then we really have to accept the results,” Crosby said. “However, if the machines are not legally certified, the reverse is also true. We cannot verify these choices now.
Crosby and Judd then voted to delay certification, with Crosby saying he believed Wood, Steiner and Rice should receive evidence since they were the “experts.”
Democratic Party Supervisor Ann English was powerless to overturn them.
The delay potentially jeopardizes state certification, set for Dec. 5, and at least one statewide recount.
Lorick issued a statement after the vote, promising legal action to force the board to accept the results. Under Arizona law, the official election campaign cannot be changed by elected county boards — their only role is to accept the numbers as reported by their elections departments.
“If they fail to do so, the Secretary of State will use all available legal remedies to compel compliance with Arizona law and protect the rights of Cochise County voters to have their votes counted,” Lorick said.
All 15 Arizona counties face the same Nov. 28 deadline, but there are no signs that others are considering a similar challenge.
After the state certifies results on Dec. 5, there will be a recount in at least one statewide race.
This race between Republican Abraham Hamadeh and Democrat Chris Mayes for attorney general is so close that a recount is certain. As of Friday night, Mayes led by less than 600 votes, with fewer ballots remaining to be counted than the mandatory recount margin, which would be about 12,500 votes.
“It’s going to be close and every vote counts,” Mays said in a brief interview. “And we’re obviously headed for a recount, one way or another.”
Another statewide race is also in the running for a recount, but incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman lost to Republican Tom Horne on Thursday. Horne is a former school principal who served two years as attorney general before losing the 2014 primary. He led by more than 9,000 votes Friday.
Horn criticized Hoffman for embracing progressive teaching and vowed to stop any hint of “critical race theory,” which is not taught in public schools but is a hot-button issue for social conservatives.
Judd said Wednesday he would take action to clear the way for a recount.
“We had to step back from everything we were trying to do and say, OK, we’ve got to let this play out,” Judd told The Associated Press. “Because that’s the last thing we want to do to get in (Mara’s) way.”
There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines in 2020 or during this year’s midterm elections.
Census laws in Arizona were changed this year. The previous margin for a mandatory recount was 1/10 of 1%. It is now 0.5%.
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