WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, March 7, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Arizona against three Cochise County supervisors (Tom Crosby, Ann English and Peggy Judd) and Cochise County Recorder David Stevens regarding an agreement transferring election oversight from the supervisors to the recorder. The agreement, adopted on Feb. 28, 2023, with the support of two out of three supervisors, gives the county recorder — which is a partisan elected position — “almost all of the elections powers and duties conferred by statute upon the Cochise County Board of Supervisors,” according to the complaint. The agreement gives the county recorder the “responsibility for the operation and administration of elections,” which among other powers includes running the official canvass of county and special elections.
The attorney general alleges that the recorder “has unlawfully aggrandized his power, and the Board has unlawfully and almost completely offloaded its statutory duties over elections” in violation of the Arizona Constitution and Arizona law. The complaint also asserts that Cochise County would misuse public funds if the county recorder exercises “authority over elections matters over which the Board has exclusive statutory authority.” The attorney general requests that the agreement giving the county recorder these election duties is not implemented and that the recorder is prevented “from exercising the authority purportedly given to him in the Agreement” and from “making unlawful payments of public funds.”
Notably, this unprecedented move to transfer power to the current recorder — who has called election denier and defeated secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem (R) “one of his best friends” and is deeply embedded in far-right communities that push election conspiracies about electronic ballot tabulators — comes in the wake of Cochise County’s growing national profile as a hotbed for election denialism. Cochise County is currently without an election director as the county’s election director, Lisa Marra, recently resigned citing the “outrageous and physically and emotionally threatening” working atmosphere. During the 2022 midterm elections, the county was sued for both attempting to implement illegal hand-counting procedures and for refusing to certify the results of the election.