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Friday December 2nd, 2022 7:04AM

2nd Arizona county delays certifying election, for now

By The Associated Press
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PHOENIX (AP) — A second Republican-controlled Arizona county on Monday delayed certifying the results of this month's election as a protest against voting issues in Maricopa County that some GOP officials have blamed for their losses in top races including the contest for governor.

The delay came as Maricopa, the state's most populous county, finished counting the last remaining ballots and the state attorney general demanded that officials there explain Election Day problems some voters experienced.

Arizona voters elected a Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, and gave Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly a full six-year term in office. But the race for attorney general was heading to a mandatory recount once the election is certified by all 15 counties and the secretary of state. Democrat Kris Mayes ended up ahead of Republican Abraham Hamadeh by just 510 votes on Monday after Maricopa County counted about 1,200 remaining ballots. Nearly 2.6 million Arizonans voted.

The split vote by the board of supervisors in Mohave County in northwest Arizona came with an explicit vow to certify the election on the Nov. 28 deadline. Members called it a political statement to show how upset they were with the issues in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and about 60% of the the state's voters.

The all-Republican boards of two other counties, Pinal and La Paz, voted with little fanfare Monday to certify their election results.

Mohave became the second state county to delay certification, following Cochise in Arizona's southeast. The board there made its decision Friday without a promise to certify the results by the deadline for doing so, despite setting a meeting to consider it. Instead the two Republicans who constitute a majority on the board demanded that the secretary of state prove their vote-counting machines were legally certified.

The state elections director told them they were, but the two board members sided instead with claims put forward by a trio of men who alleged the certifications had lapsed.

On Monday, state Elections Director Kori Lorick provided the county board with certifications for the vote-counting machines from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Lorick also warned the board that the state would sue if they did not certify on time.

County boards do not have the legal right to either change the results provided by their elections officials or refuse to certify them. And Lorick wrote that if the certification is not received by the secretary of state by Dec. 5, all the Cochise County votes will go uncounted.

That would give a boost to Democrats up and down the ballot in tight state races, since some Republican candidates got as much as 60% of the vote in the county.

Maricopa County had problems at about 30% of its vote centers Nov. 8 when tabulators were unable to read some ballots.

County officials have repeatedly said that all the ballots were counted and that no one lost their ability to vote. Those with ballots that could not be read were told to place them in a secure box to be tabulated later by more robust machines at county elections headquarters.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich wants an explanation of how the printer problems happened before Maricopa County does its certification on Nov. 28. The head of his Elections Integrity Unit also wants to know how some of the uncounted ballots were mixed up at the polling sites and an explanation for issues experienced by voters who left to go to another vote center with operating tabulators.

“Arizonans deserve a full report and accounting of the myriad problems that occurred in relation to Maricopa County administration of the 2022 general election,” the head of the unit, Jennifer Wright, wrote.

Maricopa County board Chair Bill Gates said the county will respond "with transparency as we have done throughout this election.”

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.

In Mohave County, the board and the chair of the county Republican Party praised their elections director. But Jeanne Kentch joined GOP state chair Kelli Ward in saying Republicans were disenfranchised because of issues in Maricopa County.

“Mohave County voters, their votes have been diluted,” Kentch said. “Their votes have been worth less than they were prior to this vote due to the mismanagement and the disfunction of the Maricopa County elections department."

The vote to delay the Mohave County vote canvass was not unanimous, although all five board members are Republicans. Member Jean Bishop called the decision “kind of ludicrous.”

“We’re not Maricopa County, we’re Mohave County,” she said. “Our vote is solid.”

The county board did the same after the 2020 election as former President Donald Trump pushed concerns about his loss in Arizona and pointed to Maricopa County as the source of his defeat. The board eventually accepted the results, however.

“This is 2020 redux,” board member Hildy Angius said. “If we don’t certify today, we’re just making a statement of solidarity."

Ron Gould, a former state lawmaker, agreed that it was only a message.

“It is purely a political statement,” Gould said. “But it’s the only way that we can make that statement.”

___

Associated Press writer Anita Snow in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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