Secretary of State's Office confirms it has received Cochise County certification
Compelled by a court order, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors certified the results of the Nov. 8 election Thursday on a 2-0 vote.
The vote means all Arizona counties have agreed to send their results to the Secretary of State's Office and ends a weekslong election drama spooling out of the southeastern Arizona county.
The board's two Republican supervisors since October have raised doubts about the reliability of vote tabulation machines. Their actions resulted in a series of losing court battles, the most recent coming Thursday, when a judge ordered them to canvass the election results and get the results to the Arizona secretary of state by 5 p.m.
The Secretary of State's Office confirmed Thursday evening that it had received the Cochise certification, which will allow it to proceed with the statewide canvass, scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday. The canvass is the official proclamation of the winners from the November election and sets in motion the work on three automatic recounts required by law.
Supervisor Tom Crosby did not attend the board meeting ordered by Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley, although Crosby was present two hours earlier for the court hearing. He later told The Republic he stayed away on the advice of the board's newly hired attorney.
Crosby, along with Supervisor Peggy Judd, had ignored repeated legal advice that their actions were illegal, forcing the board to seek outside counsel to represent them.
"I don't like to be threatened," Judd said before casting her vote to certify. She said she was relieved to not be threatened with jail time, as had been intimated in a Mohave County supervisors' meeting earlier this week. However, defying a court order risked contempt charges.
Judd defended her actions, saying it was important to ensure elections are "fair and good," and balked at making the motion to certify the results. Instead, she deferred to Ann English, the board's chair and a Democrat who has opposed her colleagues' moves.
"I'm not done fighting. I couldn't even make the motion," Judd said.
The vote came after a one-hour court hearing at which McGinley ordered the board to convene a meeting Thursday afternoon to canvass the election results.
He reprimanded the board for its failure to fulfill the obligation to do so earlier this week. The hearing lasted less than a half-hour and proceeded without an attorney representing the board.
McGinley rejected Crosby's request to continue the hearing until Tuesday so the board's attorney — hired two hours before the hearing — could "get up to speed."
“The board has exceeded its lawful authority,” McGinley said, adding the law “unambiguously requires” a vote within 20 days of the election. That date was Monday, Nov. 28.
He said there is only one exception to that deadline: if votes are missing or still being tabulated. That was not the case in Cochise County, he said.
McGinley is not new to the Cochise election issue. On Nov. 7, he ruled that the board had broken the law by pursuing a 100% hand count of every ballot cast in the Nov. 8 election.
Crosby and Judd in Thursday's hearing leaned on an insistence that they needed more information about whether ballot tabulation machines were certified by an accredited laboratory. They set a Friday meeting to explore the issue further and then consider canvassing results.
English told the court that meeting was a tactic to delay certification and further air election conspiracy theories.
Attorneys for the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans said that point was underscored by comments Judd made to the New York Times earlier this week. Judd said the machine complaints were a pretext to mask their real concern, which was Election Day problems in Maricopa County.
English called the planned Friday meeting "a sort of smack down between the Secretary of State and the election deniers," citing the agenda laid out by Crosby. The Secretary of State's Office said earlier this week it would not participate.
English called the plan "a circus that doesn’t have to happen. I’ve had enough. The public has had enough."
Hours earlier, the board held an emergency meeting and hired attorney Daniel McCauley on a 2-1 vote. But McCauley did not appear in court, telling the supervisors he needed until at least Tuesday to get familiar with the case.
English voted against the action, saying it was "too little, too late" to hire a lawyer so close to the hearing who was not familiar with the case.
She said she previously hoped to have legal representation, but hiring a lawyer so late essentially only would allow a lawyer to go to court and ask for a continuance, which she said was not in the county's best interest.
in casting her "yes" vote on the attorney hire, Judd said, "I can’t talk. It hurts. But yeah. I’m OK with doing it. I feel it’s better than doing nothing. Sorry. We did work pretty hard to try to figure that out when Mr. Blehm wasn’t available."
The supervisors on Tuesday voted to hire attorney Bryan Blehm to defend them and the county government against two lawsuits, even though they had not discussed the matter with him. On Wednesday, they were caught flat-footed when Blehm declined the offer, as did another attorney he had recommended.
The three supervisors were present in the Bisbee courtroom as McGinley considered requests from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, as well as the retiree group, to order the board to certify election results. That certification, by law, was due Monday. But on a 2-1 vote, the board voted to delay a decision until week's end.
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While McAuley, the board's emergency legal hire, was not in court, he did file a motion to move the case from state to federal court. That motion came after McGinley had concluded the hearing and called a 15-minute recess so he could ponder his decision.
The motion was never addressed. And even if it had been, it would have presented an impossibility: It wanted the case moved to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arizona. There is no such court.
The drawn-out drama also brought another late claim, one that likely will be dismissed since the certification has occurred.
On Wednesday, the county was hit with a claim seeking $25,000 in damages for the board's inaction on certification. Paul Sivertsen, a Cochise County resident, said the board's failure to certify dismissed his vote and disenfranchised his rights as a voter.
Hobbs has said if Cochise does not submit its certification in time for Monday's statewide canvass, the county's 47,000 votes would not be counted. A court order could avert that scenario.
Sivertsen is seeking the compensation because, he said in a news release, he believes monetary fines are the only way to prevent "future anti-democratic and unlawful maneuvers."
He also suggested the claim could be the opening salvo in an attempt to file a class-action lawsuit.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Cochise County certification received by Secretary of State's Office