Arizona Judge Stops GOP Election Interference Attempt

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In Cochise County, Arizona, where voters will weigh in this Election Day on high-profile races for Senate, governor, and Secretary of State, authorities are now under court order demanding they no longer proceed with plans for an audit by hand of ballots including early votes that were, per available info, already tabulated by machines.

Since the 2020 elections, Republicans in Trump’s corner have targeted machines used in the electoral process, whether for marking votes or tabulating the ballots. In Arizona, perennial conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell supported a failed legal effort by the state’s GOP picks for governor and Secretary of State that pushed for a hand count of ballots across the state. Predictably, tabulation machines apparently from the often-maligned Dominion Voting Systems were also recently targeted in a failed lawsuit over the 2022 elections in Michigan, in which plaintiffs specifically targeted Detroit — a Democratic-leaning area in what’s known as a swing state. In the Cochise County case, an Arizona judge concluded the plans for a count by hand of every ballot cast in the county at least during early voting violated the rules for electoral audits previously established in state law. The underlying lawsuit was from plaintiffs including the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and an individual voter.

As shared by the voting rights organization Democracy Docket, the original case claimed the planned audit would “sow confusion among voters and undermine the public’s confidence in Arizona’s elections.” The Cochise County attorney and Arizona Secretary of State warned local officials against the plans for an audit by hand. There are already procedures for audits of election results in Arizona, but the legally established procedures rely on samples of ballots — not the entirety of votes cast, which could require additional resources authorities may not be prepared to provide and increases the opportunity for human error without a clear showing that such is necessary. (Machines used at all stages of the electoral process nationwide already undergo rigorous examination.)

“The question before the Court is whether A.R.S. §16-602(B) or (F), as supplemented by the EPM, permit an election official to conduct a hand count or manual audit starting with and consisting solely of 100% of the ballots cast in an election, rather than by using the increments of ballots established by statute,” the ruling says. “The Court finds that they do not.” “The law-making powers of the county… are entirely derivative,” the ruling adds, quoting another case. “The Board of Supervisors can exercise only those powers specifically ceded to it by the legislature.” The judge also established that those bringing the case held the appropriate legal standing to do so, despite a challenge to their standing from some of those named as defendants. For at least certain votes, there are specifications allowing slight variations from the baseline for the amount of ballots audited during elections, but the ruling outlines that there’s no legal foundation for auditing everything just because officials were suspicious.

“Defendants urge the Court to consider that permitting a full hand count audit would help ameliorate fears that the electronic count was incorrect, and that it ensures that every vote is counted and counted correctly,” as the ruling outlines. “However, there is no evidence before this Court that electronic tabulation is inaccurate in the first instance, or more importantly, that the audit system established by law is insufficient to detect any inaccuracy it may possess.”