Rep. Grijalva of Arizona asks DOJ to investigate Cochise County over election appointment

Mar 20, 2023, 10:33 AM | Updated: 10:39 am

U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chariman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) presides over a hearing examin...

U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chariman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) presides over a hearing examining Park Police response to Lafayette Square protests on June 29, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva wants the Department of Justice to investigate a southern Arizona county for putting its Republican recorder in charge of elections.

In a move that Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is trying to block, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors recently appointed Recorder David Stevens as its elections director through 2024.

The two Republicans on the three-member board — Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd — voted yes on the move, while Democrat Ann English voted against it.

Grijalva, a Democrat, sent a letter to the Attorney General Merrick Garland last week asking the DOJ to investigate the move and support Mayes’ efforts.

“David Stevens has a history of endorsing election denialism and has close connections with election-denying candidates in Arizona,” Grijalva wrote. “Mr. Stevens promoted and endorsed the illegal proposal to hand count all midterm election ballots in Cochise County, a proposal that was later blocked by the courts.

“In addition, Mr. Stevens has closely associated himself with election-denying candidate and unsuccessful GOP nominee for Arizona secretary of state, Mark Finchem.”

Stevens and the Republican supervisors planned to conduct a full hand-count of ballots from the November election, but it was blocked in court. The county also refused to certify its 2022 election results until a judge ruled it broke the law.

“In my opinion, given the past actions by Mr. Stevens and members of the Republican majority on the Cochise County board of supervisors, this broad consolidation of power in Mr. Stevens is dangerous and threatens to undermine faith in Cochise County elections,” Grijalva wrote.

“For those reasons, I encourage the Department of Justice to investigate and monitor Cochise County’s elections processes under Mr. Stevens’ management and provide Arizona Attorney General Mayes with the resources and support her office may need to protect voting rights and the integrity of elections in Arizona.”

Mayes filed a lawsuit on March 7 arguing that it was illegal for the county to make Stevens the elections director.

“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, a Democrat, said in a press release.

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

Grijalva, Arizona’s longest-tenured member of Congress, said he agreed with Mayes’ assessment.

County recorder is an elected role with duties that include maintaining voter registration records, voter registration outreach, mailing early ballots and confirming signatures on ballots. Elections directors are in charge of tabulating the ballots.

Grijalva explained that administering elections requires establishing polling stations, hiring poll workers and counting ballots.

Stevens would replace Lisa Marra, who was the county’s elections director for five years and had objected to efforts by Republicans to conduct a hand count of last year’s mid-term vote.

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Rep. Grijalva of Arizona asks DOJ to investigate Cochise County over election appointment