Officials in an Arizona county have been sued over their plan to hand count ballots cast in the upcoming midterm election.
The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans said that Cochise County officials are poised to violate the law with the hand count and asked a state judge to block the plan.
A.R.S. §§ 16-602(F), the plaintiffs said, outlines that hand counts may only be conducted with specific parameters, including counting a sample of no more than 5,000 ballots.
“Arizona law thus clearly and expressly prohibits county officials from conducting a hand count audit of ballots beyond the limited sample size allowed by statute, let alone all early ballots cast in the election,” they said.
The plan to count more votes violates the law, according to the suit.
The Cochise County’s Board of Supervisors, Cochise County Recorder David Stevens, and Cochise County Elections Director Lisa Marra were named as defendants.
The board’s 2–1 vote in October ran along party lines. Republican Supervisors Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby approved the hand count. Democrat Supervisor Ann English voted against it.
County lawyers told the board that the hand count would be illegal.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat running for governor, initially said the plan was against the law but later said the board committed to only counting some of the ballots and to delivering the results on time.
Members of the board said in an Oct. 26 meeting that the hand count would follow state law, but that they interpreted state law as allowing a full hand count in contested races.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said that an expanded hand count of 100 percent of the ballots was legal, provided the hand count was limited to “five contested statewide and federal races appearing on the 2022 General Election ballot.”
Board members said in a Nov. 1 special meeting that it was aware of the lawsuit but that it had not been served yet.
Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson received the suit but assigned the matter to Judge Kellie Johnson of Pima County. That’s typical in matters involving the Board of Supervisors, according to the meeting minutes.
A spokesperson for the board pointed to the comments made during the meeting.
“Any hand count conducted will not impact election night results,” Marra said in a statement.
Stevens did not respond to a request for comment.
County Attorney Brian McIntyre has said he will not represent county officials in the suit, but the board declined to bring forward a motion to find an outside attorney in the recent meeting.
Cochise County is in southeastern Arizona and has about 126,000 residents.