Maricopa, Mohave counties approve canvass of election, Cochise County refuses to certify

GOP officials in Cochise County are refusing to certify the results amid pressure to reject a vote count that had Democrats winning several prominent races.
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 5:40 AM MST|Updated: Nov. 28, 2022 at 2:47 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) Republican officials in Cochise County refused Monday to certify the 2022 election ahead of the deadline amid pressure from prominent Republicans to reject a vote count that had Democrats winning for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide races.

Meanwhile in Maricopa County, the Board of Supervisors approved the canvass of the 2022 general election Monday afternoon at the end of an hours-long meeting that began with an executive session at 8 a.m. followed by public comments.

Even before the executive session began, a group of protesters began forming outside the downtown Phoenix building where the meeting took place. During the meeting, Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates released a statement that included the following: “Some people have questioned whether the Board is ‘rushing’ or ‘moving up’ certification, but we’ve had this date circled on our calendars for a while now.” Gates stressed that Monday is the last day the board can certify the canvass by law. See his full statement at the end of this report.

County Recorder Stephen Richer opened the meeting, addressing the audience’s election concerns by explaining the ballot and signature verification process, the bipartisan validation process and confirmed that no artificial intelligence is used in the verification process. “You can ask any of them [election workers], and they’ll tell you its a lot of work and there’s no use of artificial intelligence,” he said. Richer added that more than 100 worked every day throughout the day to verify signatures, including on Veteran’s Day. He said, “We had very few voter issues and those we had we were able to resolve easily. I’d like for us to get back to the world where the responsibilities of the 15 counties overseen are encouraged, not discouraged, to steer voters toward voting methods that work for them.

Richer’s comments were met with a variety of responses from meeting participants, with some members clapping and others booing as Richer identified his frustrations with election conspiracies spreading across social media that lead voters astray. Bill Gates responded to Richer applauding his efforts. “Your mastery of the election system I admire greatly,” Gates said,. “You are a real, outstanding leader for us in Maricopa County.” Supervisor Gallardo responded in kind, “I know what it takes, I spent many years in the Election Department, and I know the dedication and work that goes in. I couldn’t be more satisfied with the work.”

Protesters gathered outside a meeting where Maricopa County officials are voting on the canvass...
Protesters gathered outside a meeting where Maricopa County officials are voting on the canvass of the 2022 election.(Arizona's Famiy)

One audience member took to the mic during the commentary period of the meeting to remind the board of their duties to the people. “I’d like a reminder, please, that you work for we the people, and we the people ultimately pay taxes,” he said. “I know sometimes when we sit in our crystal castles that can get lost.” One woman who said that she spent the election season knocking on doors to register individuals to vote said she believed the election wasn’t as crystal clear as officials said they believed. “Every poll I visited I had no idea what to tell them,” she said. “I want to know how do we get to address the questions that people come and bring to us about machines breaking down. We have no confidence at all in our election process.”

Other audience members spoke to their frustrations about long lines at the polls and issues with the tabulation machines. “I was a poll worker on Nov. 8. The tabulator machines weren’t accepting ballots,” she said. “We had long lines in the building that were not moving, and I also got a text from my friend who voted in Cave Creek up north, and it was the same problem there too.”

Another person said that she found the Board’s actions surrounding the election to be treasonous in nature. “What are you hiding? Interferences in an election is a capital offense. It’s considered treason and punishable by the death penalty,” she said. “You openly and arrogantly violate your oath of office. We want a new run state election not run by the people at this desk or Katie Hobbs. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution necessary.”

“This was not a perfect election, but it was safe and secure, the votes have been counted accurately,” Gates said near the end of the meeting.

Including Maricopa County, six Arizona counties are supposed Monday whether to certify the 2022 election results. Mohave County also approved the canvass, hours after Republican supervisors postponed the certification vote until later Thursday after hearing comments from residents angry about problems with ballot printers in Maricopa County.

State election officials have vowed to sue Cochise County if the board of supervisors misses Monday’s deadline to approve the official tally of votes, known as the canvass. The two Republican supervisors delayed the canvass vote until hearing once more about concerns over the certification of ballot tabulators, though election officials have repeatedly explained that the equipment is properly approved.

Democratic election attorney Marc Elias vowed on Twitter to sue the county. Shortly after the vote in Cochise County, the Secretary of State’s Office released the following statement:

Election results have largely been certified without issue in jurisdictions across the country. That’s not been the case in Arizona, which was a focal point for efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election amid claims of fraud.

Arizona was long a GOP stronghold, but Democrats won most of the highest-profile races over Republicans who aggressively promoted Trump’s claims of fraud in the 2020 election. Kari Lake, the GOP candidate for governor, and Mark Finchem, the candidate for secretary of state, have refused to acknowledge their losses. They blame Republican election officials in Maricopa County for a problem with some ballot printers.

Navajo County, a rural Republican-leaning county, voted unanimously to certify after the county attorney warned supervisors they could be sued if they didn’t. In conservative Yavapai County, residents cited problems in Maricopa County in urging the Board of Supervisors not to approve the election results. The meeting was ongoing.

Two Republican-controlled Arizona counties have voted not to certify, deferring a final decision until Monday, the last day it’s allowed under state law.

Republican supervisors in Mohave County said last week that they will sign off Monday but wanted to register a protest against voting issues in Maricopa County. In Cochise County, GOP supervisors demanded that the secretary of state prove vote-counting machines were legally certified before they will approve the election results.

State Elections Director Kori Lorick has said the machines are properly certified for use in elections. She wrote in a letter last week that the state would sue to force Cochise County supervisors to certify, and if they continue to balk, would exclude the county’s numbers from the statewide canvass scheduled for Dec. 5. That move threatens to flip the victor in at least two close races — a U.S. House seat and state schools chief — from a Republican to a Democrat.

Lake has pointed to problems on Election Day in Maricopa County, where printers at some vote centers produced ballots with markings that were too light to be read by on-site tabulators. Lines backed up amid the confusion, and Lake says an unknown number of her supporters may have been dissuaded from voting as a result.

She filed a public records lawsuit last week, demanding the county produce documents shedding light on the issue before voting to certify the election on Monday. Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich has also demanded an explanation ahead of the vote.

The county responded on Sunday, saying nobody was prevented from voting, and 85% of vote centers never had lines longer than 45 minutes. Most vote centers with long lines had others nearby with shorter waits, county officials said.

The response blamed prominent Republicans, including party chair Kelli Ward, for sowing confusion by telling supporters on Twitter not to place their ballots in a secure box to be tabulated later by more robust machines at county elections headquarters.

The county said that about 17,000 Election Day ballots were involved and had to be counted later instead of at the polling place. Only 16% of the 1.56 million votes cast in Maricopa County were made in person on Election Day. Those votes went overwhelmingly for Republicans.

The Republican National Committee and the GOP candidate for Arizona attorney general, Abraham Hamadeh, filed an election challenge in his race, which is slated for an automatic recount with Hamadeh trailing by 510 votes.

Ward has urged supporters to push their county supervisors to delay a certification vote until after an afternoon scheduling hearing in the Hamadeh case.

Below is the full statement From Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates:

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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