WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Dec. 1, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors voted to canvass the results of the 2022 midterm elections after a judge ordered the county to do so two hours earlier. Canvassing is the process in which local election officials confirm results by reviewing and finalizing the unofficial results reported on election night, after which the secretary of state can then certify statewide election results. The county supervisors’ failure to abide by the law and do their non-discretionary duty to canvass the results prior to today — a decision based on conspiracies and election denialism — resulted in administrative delays and two lawsuits against the county. During the meeting, Peggy Judd, one of the two Republican supervisors who refused to certify, said she thought “everyone has done a great job” and is “not ashamed” of voting against certification. While two board members voted in favor of the motion to accept and canvass the results today, one member — who was at the court hearing earlier in the day — was not present at the later meeting of the board. Nonetheless, the motion passed, meaning that Cochise County’s midterm election results have been canvassed and accepted.
Today’s vote to canvass the results is a culmination of a weeks-long effort to halt the board’s attempt to subvert the electoral process. On Tuesday, Nov. 22, the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans (“the Alliance”) and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) sent two separate letters to the Cochise County Board of Supervisors regarding the board’s Nov. 18 decision to “postpone canvassing the election results to November 28, 2022.” These letters warned the county that there would be legal implications if the county refused to canvass the election results on time.
After the county did fail to canvass election results by the statewide deadline of Monday, Nov. 28, as promised two lawsuits (one by the Alliance and one by Hobbs) were immediately filed against the county. The Alliance argued that the board’s decision not to canvass the election results was “unjustifiable [and] based on entirely unsubstantiated, vague allegations that the county’s electronic voting machines could not be trusted.” Similarly, the secretary of state noted that the board’s failure to canvass the election results was based on unfounded allegations “about the testing, certification, and accreditation of electronic voting equipment” that served to “sow further confusion and doubt about the integrity of Arizona’s election system.” The lawsuits both alleged that the board illegally refused to perform its ministerial (meaning administrative) duty to canvass the results of the election and requested that the court order the county to canvass its results.
Soon after the lawsuits were filed, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors missed the deadline to respond to the allegations after failing to secure legal counsel. Despite the fact that the board authorized an agreement to hire Bryan Blehm, an attorney for the controversial Cyber Ninjas, it was reported that Blehm turned down the offer. Notably, the county attorney told the board on multiple occasions that refusing to certify would be illegal and he would not be able to represent the county in any legal challenges if the board refused to certify. Two hours before the hearing, the supervisors scheduled an emergency meeting to hire a different law firm to represent them. While the supervisors conveyed that they had since secured legal representation, the lawyer was not present at today’s hearing and the supervisors spoke on their own behalf. The plaintiffs’ attorney noted that the defendants had at least 10 days’ notice after the letters were sent regarding potential litigation and the judge concluded that it would not be appropriate to postpone the hearing, as the supervisors requested, due to the defendants’ lack of counsel.
At the conclusion of a hearing held this afternoon, the judge ordered the county to canvass the election results so as to not further delay statewide certification. In his ruling, the judge held that “the board exceeded its lawful authority in delaying the canvass for a reason that is not permitted by” state law and ordered the county to complete the canvass by 5 p.m. MT, which it did, finally putting an end to the board’s antics that created chaos during every turn of the 2022 election cycle. The judge repeated that the duty to canvass election results is non-discretionary and mandatory.
Cochise County has been sued a total of three times in 2022 for attempting to hand count votes and refusing to certify election results. Additionally, two Republican members of the board turned on their own chair last month and filed a lawsuit against the single Democratic member because she “refused to comply” with the Republicans’ plan to “to conduct an expanded hand count.” Today’s order is yet another rejection of Cochise County’s relentless attempts to undermine voters and subvert elections.