Arizona secretary of state says Cochise County hand count would be unlawful

Oct 21, 2022, 11:59 AM | Updated: 12:12 pm
In this May 6, 2021, file photo, Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are exam...
In this May 6, 2021, file photo, Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File)
(AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office is warning Cochise County officials against moving ahead with a “misguided” plan for a hand count audit of the upcoming general election.

“We understand that the Cochise County Board of Supervisors will vote next week on whether to conduct a hand count of all votes cast, despite both the Cochise County Attorney’s and Legislative Council’s determination that doing so would be unlawful,” Kori Lorick, state elections director under Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, wrote in a letter to the board dated Wednesday.

“The Secretary of State agrees with the County Attorney and Legislative Council and urges the Board to abandon this misguided effort.”

The Cochise County Board of Supervisors is planning to vote Monday on whether to authorize the hand count of the Nov. 8 election. During an Oct. 11 work session where the proposal was discussed, the county attorney’s office advised against it.

Despite the warning, two of the southeastern Arizona county’s three supervisors, Republicans Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby, submitted agenda items for a hand count to be considered Monday. Both cited the public’s lost trust in elections and said the audit would be completed before the election certification deadline.

The third supervisor, Ann English, is a Democrat.

“There’s nothing that allows a separate process within the Election Procedures Manual, nor is it in the (laws), that give the board any power to do this,” Chief Deputy Cochise County Attorney Christine Roberts said during the Oct. 11 session. “We are 3½ weeks away from an election. The Purcell doctrine says you don’t change election procedures that close to an election.”

That’s a reference to a Supreme Court case where the court ruled that changes close to an election are barred.

Under state law, a small percentage of ballots in selected races go through a mandatory hand count with bipartisan teams to check the accuracy of tabulation machines after all the votes are counted. The Cochise County proposal is to do a full hand recount to audit the machine tabulation, something Lorick’s letter says “the Board has no authority to do.”

Hobbs posted the letter to social media on Friday morning. It notes that hand counts are “time intensive and prone to human error.”

“Any election director in Arizona … can attest that it’s impossible to complete an accurate hand count of an election with dozens of races on the ballot in time to comply with applicable statutory deadlines,” the letter says.

According to a presentation during this month’s work session, Cochise County voters cast about 61,000 ballots in the 2020 general election.

“Drastically changing procedures now – mere weeks before Election Day – creates significant risk of administrative error and has the potential to cause voter confusion and mistrust in our election,” the letter says.

The letter goes on to say the state could take legal action that includes “mandatory fee shifting” if Cochise County goes ahead with the hand count.

“We are all stewards of taxpayer dollars, and taxpayers should not bear the burden of the Board’s contemplated unlawful action,” the letter says.

There’s no evidence in Arizona or elsewhere in the country that fraud, problems with ballot-counting equipment or other voting issues had any impact on the results of the 2020 election. Yet many Republican voters who back former President Donald Trump have been convinced by him and others that there is.

A hand count of Maricopa County’s 2020 presidential election ordered by state Senate GOP leaders corroborated President Joe Biden’s victory.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(DEA Photo)...
Taylor Tasler

Valley students taking peer-to-peer approach when raising awareness for fentanyl

A group of students at Valley schools are working together to raise awareness of the deadly effects of fentanyl.
8 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/US Border Patrol, Tucson Sector)...

Man pleads guilty to assaulting 2 Border Patrol agents in Arizona in 2022

A Mexican citizen pleaded guilty last week to the assault of two Arizona Border Patrol agents last year, authorities said.
8 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/The Offspring)...

Offspring with Simple Plan, Sum 41, coming to Phoenix for summer tour

American rock band The Offspring announced Monday it will stop by the Valley on its 24-city Let The Bad Times Roll Tour this summer.
8 hours ago
(Banner Health Photo)...
SuElen Rivera

Banner Health announces plan to open Scottsdale hospital in 2026

Banner Health announced Monday it plans to open a full-service hospital and cancer care center in the northeast Valley.
8 hours ago
(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)...

Man arrested after allegedly attempting to kidnap woman at Phoenix airport

A man was arrested over the weekend for allegedly attempting to kidnap a woman from a Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport parking garage.
1 day ago
(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...
Sponsored Content by OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here's what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

Sponsored Articles

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Arizona secretary of state says Cochise County hand count would be unlawful