Court Battles

Arizona judge orders Cochise County board to certify election results after refusal

A state judge on Thursday ordered the Cochise County, Ariz., board of supervisors to certify the county’s vote canvass after two GOP members refused to do so over an unfounded conspiracy theory about vote machine certification.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley ruled that two GOP supervisors’ decision to opt against certification by a Monday statutory deadline was unlawful after Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), who is now the governor-elect, and an outside group sued the county.

McGinley ordered the board to convene later on Thursday to certify the canvass, and attorneys for the plaintiffs vowed to seek a contempt order if board members do not comply.

“Today’s court decision was a win for Arizona’s democracy and ensures that all Arizonans will have their votes counted,” Hobbs said in a statement.

Arizona has become an epicenter for GOP allegations of voter disenfranchisement in the midterms, although most of those claims centered on malfunctions in the Phoenix area.

In Cochise — a Republican-controlled county in the state’s southeast that was the only jurisdiction to not certify by the statewide deadline — GOP supervisors voted against certification after a trio of conspiracy theorists claimed the county’s vote machines were not properly certified.

Those allegations were refuted by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, which oversees the certification process, and state election officials.

Thursday’s hearing came after the board scrambled to find legal representation.

The county’s attorney declined to represent the supervisors in court, saying he believed their decision was unlawful.

Supervisors subsequently voted to hire an outside attorney who had represented them previously, but the attorney declined.

The board again convened just hours before the hearing to approve hiring Daniel McCauley III, a third attorney, but he was not present in the courtroom, and the judge indicated he had not filed a notice of appearance.

Supervisor Tom Crosby (R) asked for a delay of court proceedings until early next week so McCauley could attend, but the judge rejected the motion, leaving the supervisors to represent themselves.

After that ruling, plaintiffs proceeded to ask the judge to require the county to hold a certification meeting later on Thursday, rather than its scheduled meeting for Friday, a motion the judge granted.

Board Chair Ann English (D), who had opposed her Republican colleagues’ effort to not certify, said Crosby wanted to wait until Friday to hold a “smackdown” with opposing testimony from election deniers and the secretary of state’s office.

“I’ve had enough, I think Republicans had enough, and so I’m asking for a swift resolution to this,” English said at the hearing.

The judge’s ruling paves the way for state officials to certify the results on Monday.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Republican attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh have vowed to file lawsuits once the state certifies its election results.

Updated at 4:45 p.m.

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