Arizona AG gives county OK for full ballot hand counts

PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona’s Republican attorney general has issued an opinion that state officials can hand-count all ballots in at least five races starting with the Nov. 8 election, a move that gives GOP officials in at least two states the green light. Hands are clamoring for a count.

Efforts to count votes are driven by unfounded concerns Among some Republicans, problems with vote counting machines or voter fraud contributed to former President Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat.

The new attorney general’s opinion led the two Republicans to upend the plan to count some races on both early and Election Day ballots on the three-member Cochise County Board of Supervisors. They have vowed to reverse the effort on Wednesday.

Under state law, local leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties must provide hundreds of volunteers for the count.

At a fiery meeting Friday, Democratic Supervisor Ann English said she would do everything she could to stop the state Democratic Party chairman from supplying those workers.

“If I have any authority at all, it would be my fondest hope that the chairman of the Cochise County Democratic Party can somehow convince people not to give in to this disaster, which is my intention,” English said. “Because I think every day we’re discussing this, people are wondering, ‘What’s wrong with our elections?’ “

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The announcement came after GOP Supervisor Peggy Judd said she wanted to proceed, and Republican Supervisor Tom Crosby pushed back hard on English’s opposition and efforts to stop the full count.

“I don’t mind talking about how to make this happen, but what you want to do is make sure it doesn’t happen,” Crosby said. “So, I’m not interested in that discussion — I’m interested in the discussion of how to get it done.”

The Cochise State Democratic Party on Saturday referred queries to the state party on whether to send volunteers for the expanded hand count. Arizona Democratic Party spokeswoman Morgan Dick said party officials are discussing the issue with their attorneys.

The state party posted on its Facebook page on Saturday that they were “beyond disappointed with the circus of a meeting held yesterday”.

“Judd, Crosby and (County Recorder David) Stevens are hell-bent on appeasing MAGA election deniers instead of doing what’s right for our county,” the post continued.

A hand count will occur with the machine count, and the machine count will be used for legal results.

The informal opinion released Friday by Attorney General Mark Bronovich’s office comes as the panel grapples with Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. She cautioned officials there not to extend the required number of small hands to all nations as it is illegal. Hobbs is the state’s chief election officer and is running for governor.

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Hobbs allowed them to hand-count all Election Day ballots in four races, but it was illegal to do so for early voting, which makes up more than 80% of the state’s ballots, she said. The routine hand-count audits required under the law to ensure the accuracy of vote-counting machines cover only a small percentage of ballots.

Bronovich’s deputy solicitor general opined that the county could count all the ballots in five contests.

Hobbs’ office said they disagree and the law does not allow for early polls.

“Early voting is going well and less than two weeks from election day, these clowns are doing nothing but creating chaos and confusion around the election and tabulating the ballot papers, which is very irresponsible.

Supervisors in Pinal County, a large and growing suburb south of Maricopa County in metro Phoenix, are also considering a hand count. Meetings of both the boards of directors are scheduled to be held next week to discuss the matter.

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Elected Republican state attorneys in both jurisdictions have warned their respective boards that they lack the legal authority to expand manual vote counts.

“A full hand count at this point would be illegal,” Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer told his panel Wednesday.

Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre told the board he believes the full hand count is illegal, and that the board and County Recorder David Stevens will need to find outside attorneys if it moves forward. He repeated that Friday after Supervisor Judd told Bronovich to go ahead.

He also noted that the effort runs afoul of a legal principle established by the US Supreme Court that says election rules and procedures cannot be changed near an election.

A vote-counting effort in rural Nevada’s Nye County has been beset by problems., including slow counts and a legal challenge that forced a halt to the effort Thursday night. Officials in the GOP-led state vowed to resume their efforts as soon as possible.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the elections: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

See https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections To learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

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