Officials in a rural Arizona county on Monday delayed certification of the November midterm elections, having missed the legal deadline leading the Arizona Secretary of State’s office to file a lawsuit for the county’s failure to sign the results.
With a 2-1 vote on Monday morning, the Republican majority on the Cochise County Board of Supervisors postponed certification to Friday, citing concerns about voting machines. Because Monday was the deadline for all 15 Arizona counties to certify their results, Cochise’s move could jeopardize the votes of some 47,000 county residents and cause election chaos if those votes go uncounted .
In the lawsuit filed by the office of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — a Democrat who will become the state’s next governor — officials said failure to confirm the election results violates state law and may give county voters the could be deprived of the right to vote.
CNN has contacted regulators for comment.
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The standoff between officials in Cochise County and the office of the Arizona Secretary of State illustrates how election disinformation continues to fuel controversy in some corners of the country over the 2022 results, even though many of the candidates who believe former President Donald Trump’s lies about the repeat elections of 2020 were defeated in November.
A crowd of grassroots activists came to a special meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to loudly protest that county’s election administration procedures during a public commentary portion of the meeting after problems with printers at voting sites on election day led to long lines at about 1:00 a.m. third of the county’s voting locations. In a new letter to the Attorney General’s Office — which had demanded an explanation of the problems — the Maricopa Attorney’s Office said that “not a single voter was disenfranchised because of the difficulties the country was experiencing with some of its printers.”
Disputes over the results have erupted elsewhere.
In Pennsylvania, where counties also faced a Monday deadline to certify their general elections, local officials have faced a flurry of petitions demanding recounts. And officials in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County were deadlocked on Monday over whether to certify the results, according to multiple media reports. Election officials there did not respond to questions from CNN Monday afternoon.
In a statement to CNN, Pennsylvania Department of State officials said they have reached out to Lucerne officials “to inquire about the board’s decision and their intended next steps.”
On Election Day, a paper shortage in Luzerne County led to a court-ordered expansion of in-person voting.
Arizona, another key battleground state, has long been a cauldron of election conspiracies. GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and GOP secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem, both of whom exposed Trump’s lies about 2020, have refused to admit their races as they continue to cast doubt on this year’s election results.
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Lake’s campaign filed a lawsuit last week demanding more information from the Maricopa County Elections Department about the number of voters who showed up at polling places compared to votes cast. And Abe Hamadeh, the GOP attorney general nominee of Arizona — who, like Lake and Finchem, was backed by Trump — last week filed a lawsuit in state superior court in Maricopa County, challenging the election results on the basis of what the lawsuit describes as election management errors.
Hamadeh trails his opponent Democrat Kris Mayes by 510 votes as their race heads for a recount. But the lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting the Arizona Secretary of State from certifying Mayes as the winner and asks the court to declare Hamadeh the winner. A recount cannot begin until the state’s votes are certified.
Alex Gulotta, state director of Arizona’s All Voting is Local, said the drama over the certification of votes and losing candidates’ refusal to withdraw is part of an “infrastructure of election denial” that has built up since the election of 2020 in Arizona.
“Those people will continue to try to find fertile ground for their efforts to undermine our elections. They will not give up,” said Gulotta. “We had a slew of election deniers, many of whom were not elected.”
But their refusal to concede “was inevitable in Arizona, at least in this cycle, given the candidates. These are not good losers,” he added. “They said from the start they would be sore losers.”
In Cochise County, Republican officials on the County Board of Supervisors pleaded for the delay, citing concerns about voting machines.
Ann English, the Democratic chairman, argued that there was “no reason for us to delay”.
But Republican commissioners Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, who argued that the machines had not been properly certified, voted to delay the signing of the results. Monday’s action was the second time the Republican-controlled board has delayed certification. And it marked the latest attempt by Republicans on the board to voice their disapproval of vote-counting machines. Earlier this month, they attempted to mount a comprehensive scrutiny of the hand count of the interim results, taking on the Cochise election director and county attorney, who warned the gamble could break the law.
State election officials said concerns expressed by the Republican majority about the vote-counting machines are rooted in debunked conspiracy theories.
Kori Lorick, the state’s election director, has confirmed in writing that the voting machines have been tested and certified — a point Hobbs reiterated in Monday’s lawsuit. She is asking the court to force the board to certify the results by Thursday.
An initial deadline of December 5 had been set for statewide certification. In the lawsuit, Hobbs’ lawyers said state law allows a slight delay if her office has not received a county’s results, but not after Dec. 8 — or 30 days after the election.
“Without the intervention of this court, the secretary will have no choice but to complete the statewide investigation by Dec. 8 without counting the votes of Cochise County,” her attorneys added.
If the votes of this Republican stronghold somehow remained uncounted, it could lead two races to the Democrats: the state superintendent contest and a congressional race in which Republican Juan Ciscomani has already been projected as the winner by CNN and other outlets.
In a recent op-ed published in The Arizona Republic, two former Maricopa County election officials said the courts would likely step in and force Cochise to certify the results.
But Republican Helen Purcell, a former Maricopa County recorder, and Tammy Patrick, a Democrat and the county’s former federal compliance officer, warned that “a Republican-controlled board of supervisors could lead their own voters to lose the right to vote.” disenfranchised and the Democrats more victories in the interim.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.