The Arizona Attorney General is suing to stop the switchover to the county election

Arizona’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Tuesday to block the transfer of election duties in a rural county where leaders have embraced conspiracy theories.

The Republican majority on the Cochise County Board of Supervisors last week voted to transfer all election functions from the nonpartisan election department to the county’s elected recorder, also a Republican. The move follows the resignation of the election director, who had objected to the board’s attempts to fully count last year’s votes.

Attorney General Kris Mayes said it was illegal to transfer election office duties to the recorder.

“While counties may appropriately enter into cooperative agreements with their recorders to conduct elections, Cochise County’s agreement goes well beyond the legal limit,” Mayes said in a press release announcing the lawsuit.

Mayes alleges the agreement improperly gives all power to county recorder David Stevens instead of being a “hand-in-hand” agreement to work with the county’s three supervisors. The county’s two Republican supervisors, Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, voted in favor of the agreement, while the sole Democrat on the board, Ann English, voted against.

Crosby and Judd have said they believe the transfer is legal under Arizona law and that they have little choice because the election director, Lisa Marra, resigned last month, citing threats and intimidation. In an interview Tuesday, Stevens said of the lawsuit, “It doesn’t make any sense.”

The lawsuit is just the latest legal battle between the state and Cochise Republican regulators over their embrace of unorthodox election practices stemming from conspiracy theories spread by former President Donald Trump following his 2020 loss.

During the November 2022 election, at the urging of Crosby and Judd, Stevens was willing to hand-count all ballots until a judge stopped it. Crosby and Judd subsequently declined to confirm the county’s election results, protesting what they said were irregularities in Maricopa County that they blamed for the victories of Mayes and other Democrats statewide. A judge eventually forced them to sign off on the election.

Stevens is a friend of former Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican who attended the January 6, 2021 rally in Washington, D.C. that preceded the violent attack on the Capitol. He ran unsuccessfully last year for the state’s highest electoral post, Secretary of State. Stevens recently agreed to serve on the board of an election-related nonprofit that Finchem founded.

Recorders already have some election duties in Arizona: they print ballots, mail them, and check signatures for returned votes. But the Election Office, which reports to the provincial regulators, handles the tabulation and voting on Election Day.

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