Lawsuit filed by the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans and a Democratic voter against members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors, the Cochise County recorder and the Cochise County elections director challenging the county’s plans to perform a “Full Early Ballot Audit” (a hand count of all ballots cast before Election Day conducted after a machine has electronically tabulated them). This suit comes after Cochise County walked back its plans to conduct a full hand count audit of ballots cast in person on Election Day, as it initially planned to do; however, on Oct. 28, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) issued an advisory opinion giving the county the green light to conduct an even broader hand count audit of early ballots. In the opinion, Brnovich stated that “Cochise County has discretion to perform an expanded hand count audit of all ballots cast in person at 100% of the precincts or voting centers located in Cochise County, along with 100% of early ballots cast in Cochise County, so long as the expanded hand count audit of statewide and federal races is limited to five contested statewide and federal races appearing on the 2022 General Election ballot.” The plaintiffs allege that the county is relying on this guidance from the attorney general to support its decision “to conduct a hand count audit of all early ballots” despite “being warned numerous times by multiple parties—including its own County Attorney and the Secretary of State—that such an audit is unlawful.” The plaintiffs argue that the Full Early Ballot Audit violates the Arizona Elections Procedure Manual and Arizona law by ignoring the required procedure for an audit, which requires specific circumstances and the elections director’s supervision.
The plaintiffs further assert that if the defendants are allowed to proceed with their plan, there will be “unlimited opportunity for electoral chaos” and it could disrupt and delay the county and state’s certification. The plaintiffs request a writ of mandamus (a court order compelling a party to take a specific action) to order the “Defendants to conduct hand count audits of early ballots only as permitted by and in accordance with [Arizona law], declare that the Full Early Ballot Audit is unlawful, and prohibit Defendants from conducting the Full Early Ballot Audit.” While hand counts are an important tool for recounts or confirming machine accuracy, using them as a primary counting method can add human error and inaccurate standards into the process.
On Nov. 7, a judge ruled that Cochise County may not conduct a full hand count audit of early ballots. The defendants appealed this ruling, but the appellate court denied their motion for expedited briefing, meaning that Cochise County may not conduct a Fully Early Ballot Audit for the Nov. 8, 2022 midterm elections. On Oct. 18, 2023, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
Case Documents (trial court)
Case Documents (Appellate court)
Case Documents (Arizona Supreme Court)
Case Documents (federal court)