PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona’s Republican attorney general has issued an opinion saying county officials can count all ballots by hand in at least five races from the Nov. 8 election, a move that gives GOP officials the green light in two counties at least be clamoring for a hand count.
Attempts to count ballots by hand are an unfounded concern among some Republicans that former President Donald Trump lost in 2020 due to problems with vote counting machines or voter fraud.
The new attorney general’s opinion led by the two Republicans on the three-member Cochise County board of supervisors led them to advance their plan to count some races on Election Day and early ballots. They promised that the effort would pay back on Wednesday.
Under state law, local leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties would have to provide hundreds of volunteers to conduct the count.
At a fiery meeting on Friday, Democratic Supervisor Ann English said she will do everything she can to stop the county Democratic Party chairman from supplying those workers.
“My greatest hope is, if I have any authority, any way I can convince the chairman of the Democratic party in Cochise County not to supply people for this fiasco that I have in mind, ” said English. “Because I think we’re discussing this every day that people are thinking ‘what’s wrong with our elections.’ “
That comment came after GOP Supervisor Peggy Judd said she wanted to move forward, and Republican Supervisor Tom Crosby pushed back strongly on England’s opposition and effort to stop the full count.
“I’m fine talking about how this is going to get done, but you just have to make sure it doesn’t get done,” Crosby said. “So I’m not interested in that discussion – I’m interested in the discussion of how it’s going to be done.”
The Cochise County Democratic Party referred inquiries about whether to send volunteers for the extended hand count to the state party on Saturday. Arizona Democratic Party spokesperson Morgan Dick said party officials are consulting with their attorneys on the matter.
The county party posted on their Facebook page on Saturday, saying they were “extremely disappointed at the circus of yesterday’s meeting”.
“Judd, Crosby and (County Attorney David) Stevens are hell-bent on insulting MAGA election deniers instead of doing what’s right for our county,” the post continued.
The hand count would be done along with the machine count, and the machine count would be used for the legal results.
The informal opinion released Friday by Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office came as the board clashed with Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. She then warned officials not to extend the required small number of hands to all races because it was illegal. Hobbs is the state’s chief election officer and is running for governor.
Hobbs gave them the right to hand-count all Election Day ballots in four races, but she said it would be illegal to do so for early votes, which make up more than 80% of ballots in the state. Routine manual count audits required by law to ensure the accuracy of ballot counting machines cover only a small percentage of ballots.
Deputy attorney general Brnovich said the county could count all the ballots in five races.
Hobbs’ office said they disagreed and that the law does not allow for early ballots.
“With early voting in full swing and less than two weeks from election day, these old sayings are doing nothing but creating chaos and confusion around the election and ballot tabulation, which is completely irresponsible,” Hobbs’ office said. .
Supervisors in Pinal County, a much larger and growing suburban area just south of metro Phoenix’s Maricopa County, are also considering hand counts. Both boards are planning meetings next week to discuss the issue.
Republican-elected county attorneys in both jurisdictions have warned their respective boards that there is no legal authority to expand the number of ballots.
“It would be illegal at this point to do a full hand count,” Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer told his board Wednesday.
Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre told the board he also believes a full hand count is illegal and said the board and county recorder David Stevens would have to bring in outside attorneys if they went ahead. He said it again that Friday, after Supervisor Judd said Brnovich had given permission.
He also noted that the effort runs afoul of legal doctrine established by the U.S. Supreme Court that says election rules and procedures cannot be changed close to an election.
Efforts have been made to count ballots in rural Nye County in Nevada, including a slow count and a legal challenge that forced the end of the effort Thursday night. Officials in the GOP-led county promised to resume their effort as soon as possible.
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