ELECTIONS

'A political statement': Mohave County delays its 2022 election certification

Ballots are processed on Nov. 10, 2022, at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Elections Center in Phoenix.
Ryan Randazzo
Arizona Republic

Supervisors in Mohave County in western Arizona on Monday refused to certify the results of the 2022 election, delaying the decision in what some called a "political statement" to show dissatisfaction with how the election was run in the Phoenix area.

The supervisors agreed to reconvene Nov. 28 to reconsider certifying the results for the county that includes Lake Havasu City and Kingman. State law requires counties to canvass their elections by that date.

Their move comes after Cochise County in southern Arizona on Friday also refused to certify its election results, though that county did so because of questions some supervisors had about whether vote tabulation machines had been certified property. The state elections director told them they had.

Cochise officials also will reconvene Nov. 28 to reconsider their canvass but asked for "proof" the election machines are certified.

Mohave officials, on the other hand, simply wanted to send a message.

"It's a political statement. I'm not going to lie," Mohave Supervisor Hildy Angius said before the board voted 3-2 to delay until Monday, the last day allowed by law for counties to certify.

More on ballots:As ballot counting wraps up, Maricopa County officials deal with state requests, outside threats

'It's a mess': Unhappy with Maricopa County

Angius said she was frustrated with how the election was run in Maricopa County, and the delay was to let the county know it was "unacceptable" and it better get its "act together."

"It's a mess down there," she said, citing a letter the Attorney General's Office sent the state's biggest county regarding election problems

Mohave County tallied about 82,000 ballots, while Maricopa County had more than 1.5 million and completed its counting Monday.

Angius also implied that perhaps Maricopa County would not be able to certify its results by Nov. 28.

"They just need one county not to certify so that the whole state can't certify," she said.

However, she said her intent was to complete the canvass for Mohave County by Nov. 28 as required.

"I don't intend to do anything that would put Mohave County in legal jeopardy," she said.

Supervisor Jean Bishop said delaying was "ludicrous."

"We are not Maricopa County," Bishop said. "We are Mohave County ... We're good."

Legal fight could ensue between counties, state

The Secretary of State's Office on Friday said it would sue to force Cochise County to canvass its election as required if the supervisors in that county failed to act on Nov. 28. It's likely the office would do the same for Mohave if that county threatened to delay the state canvass.

On Monday, the Secretary of State's Office sent Cochise officials an even more dire warning that if the county can't be compelled through the courts to certify its election results on time, the state will move ahead with its own statewide certification as required by law Dec. 5, without the county's results.

"If the board still has not certified by the state canvass deadline, the state canvass will proceed regardless, asis required under Arizona’s law, and your refusal to certify will only serve to disenfranchise Cochise County voters," said the letter from State Elections Director Kori Lorick. "Please let me know if you need any additional information prior to your November 28 meeting to certify Cochise’s election results."

Included with Monday's correspondence was a letter dated the same day from Mark Robbins, the interim director of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, confirming the Elections System & Software equipment in Cochise County was properly certified and the lab that conducted the testing, SLI Compliance, also had the proper credentials when the equipment was tested.

But other parties could get involved as well. A Washington, D.C., law firm called Elias Law Group, which takes on progressive causes related to elections, already sued on behalf of the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans to stop Cochise County from pursuing a hand recount of all ballots in that county.

It won that case before a Superior Court judge. The case was dropped during an appeal.

On Monday, the firm's namesake, Marc Elias, said on Twitter the same could be in store for Mohave.

"Let me be clear, if any Arizona County fails to follow the law and to timely certify the election results, they will be sued," Elias said on Twitter. "The Board members in Mohave should go ask their buddies in Cochise about how that worked out for them."

Reach reporter Ryan Randazzo at ryan.randazzo@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.