WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Nov. 14, the two Republican members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors filed a special action complaint against Cochise County Elections Director Lisa Marra requesting an order to compel Marra “to administer the counting of votes for the 2022 general election as lawfully commanded.” This is not the first time Cochise County has made the news for its plans to conduct a hand count this election cycle. On Oct. 24, the Cochise Board of Supervisors voted to conduct a hand count audit of all ballots cast for the 2022 election. On Oct. 28, the county then decided to move forward with an expanded hand count audit of all early ballots (ballots cast before Election Day) despite receiving numerous warnings from the Cochise County attorney and Arizona secretary of state advising the county against this broader plan. After the county was sued over its plan to hand count all early ballots, on Nov. 7, a court ruled that a full hand count audit of all early ballots was not permitted by Arizona law. Now, Cochise County argues that the court’s Nov. 7 order “does not enjoin the County Recorder or Elections Director from conducting an expanded hand count of fewer than 100% of election day ballots.”
Notably, the Republican election officials for the county have rejected advice from the county attorney on multiple occasions and even include in their petition that “the County Attorney has made clear that he will prosecute any attempt by the Board and Recorder to exercise their lawful authority to take custody of the ballots to complete an expanded hand count themselves.” Despite this, the Republican members of the board state that the county elections director must comply with their plan for an expanded hand count of Election Day ballots. The petition states that “[p]ursuant to the terms of the [Nov. 7 court] Order and Arizona law, the County Recorder randomly selected sixteen out of seventeen vote centers to conduct an expanded hand count of election day ballots only,” but claims that the defendant did not allow the county recorder to access these ballots. The petitioners allege that the Cochise County elections director has “has refused to comply” with the county board’s plan to “to conduct an expanded hand count” and requests a writ of mandamus to “compel such compliance” in order to allow the county to conduct an “expanded hand count audit of election day ballots cast in sixteen out of seventeen of the County’s vote centers.” This lawsuit is part of a larger trend of Republican efforts to upend election processes and foment distrust and disinformation about election procedures that are credibly proven to be safe and secure. Although hand counts are an important tool for recounts or confirming tabulator machine accuracy, using them as a counting method for all ballots is both time consuming and subject to human error.