The Arizona attorney general filed suit on Tuesday to stop the Cochise County Board of Supervisors from handing its authority over elections to the county recorder, who has spread skepticism about the voting system.
“The Recorder has unlawfully aggrandized his power, and the Board has unlawfully and almost completely offloaded its statutory duties over elections,” the suit says.
“The Agreement not only threatens the lawful administration and operation of elections. It also may threaten Cochise County residents’ right to know how and when their government is making consequential decisions that affect their right to vote.
“In shifting all election duties to the Recorder—a distinct constitutional county officer—the Agreement says not a word about how or whether the public may still have access to deliberations on matters that the Board would normally consider in open meetings.”
The move comes after a months-long imbroglio that began when the two Republicans on the three-member Board of Supervisors called the reliability of voting machines into question before the November midterms.
They then demanded an illegal hand-count of the ballots, and when a judge shot down their request and the election went ahead without any problems, they repeatedly failed to certify the results until a court intervened.
The two GOP members, Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, also sued the county’s longtime director of elections, Lisa Marra, for refusing to go along with their hand-count scheme.
Marra prevailed in court but subsequently quit her position. Crosby and Judd then voted to consolidate all authority for elections under recorder David Stevens.
Stevens is a close friend of Mark Finchem, a 2020 election denier who ran for secretary of state—which would have made him the state’s top election official—and refused to concede when he lost in November.
According to Arizona Mirror’s Votebeat, Stevens is a director of a nonprofit run by Finchem, the Election Fairness Institute, that “posts untrue statements about elections on its website and says it will rely on researchers who have become known for spreading false claims of widespread election fraud.”
AG Kris Mayes explained the decision to sue the Board of Supervisors in a statement accompanying the complaint.
“While counties may appropriately enter into cooperative agreements with their recorders to manage elections, Cochise County’s agreement steps far over the legal line. In addition to this broad transfer of power, I am deeply concerned this move might shield or obscure actions and deliberations the Board would typically conduct publicly under open meeting law,” Mayes said.
“Suing other public officials is not something I take lightly–but it is my job as Attorney General to bring action when public officials unlawfully exercise their power or act outside the confines of their authority.”