Arizona AG Mayes sues Cochise County for putting recorder in charge of elections

Mar 7, 2023, 12:56 PM
Kris Mayes (File Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)...
Kris Mayes (File Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(File Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes filed a lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to keep Cochise County from putting its Republican recorder in control of elections.

“While counties may appropriately enter into cooperative agreements with their recorders to manage elections, Cochise County’s agreement steps far over the legal line,” Mayes, a Democrat, said in a press release.

Mayes’ office warned the Cochise County Board of Supervisors that it would be illegal to give control of elections to David Stevens, the elected recorder. But that didn’t stop the three-member board’s two Republicans from voting last week to approve the move through 2024.

“The agreement is essentially an unqualified handover from the board to the recorder, not one that would allow both entities to work hand in hand to fulfill their statutory duties openly and transparently,” Mayes said.

In Arizona, elected recorders such as Stevens already play a part in elections. They register voters, distribute mail ballots and verify signatures on the ones sent back, while the nonpartisan election director handles the counting.

“A county officer may exercise only the legal authority of their office, not some other office that they do not hold,” Mayes argues in the lawsuit filed in Cochise County Superior Court.

“For example, a county sheriff cannot give his powers and duties related to law enforcement and jail supervision to the county assessor, just as the assessor may not give her powers and duties related to assessment to the sheriff.”

The lawsuit names all three supervisors — Republicans Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd and Democrat Ann English — and Stevens as defendants.

English voted against the measure, saying the legality needed to be studied.

Mayes’ suit asks the court to prohibit the agreement from being implemented and put the southeastern Arizona county on the hook for the state’s legal fees in the case.

Lisa Marra recently resigned as the Cochise County’s elections director after five years in the position. She had objected to unsuccessful efforts by Republicans on the board to conduct a full hand count of last year’s midterm vote amid conspiracies that ballot tabulators were illegal or faulty.

The rural county also delayed certifying the results of its November election until a court ruled that Crosby and Judd broke the law when they refused to sign off on the vote count by a state-mandated deadline.

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Arizona AG Mayes sues Cochise County for putting recorder in charge of elections