By Corinne Murdock |
Mohave County officials backed down from a proposed policy to hand count all future ballots after Attorney General Kris Mayes threatened criminal charges.
The Mohave County Board of Supervisors convened on Monday to discuss whether they would hand-count all ballots for the 2024 election and beyond; the board declined the policy in a divided vote. Mayes congratulated the board for heeding her threat.
“I am greatly relieved and commend the Mohave County Board of Supervisors for their decision not to authorize a hand count of all ballots for the 2024 election, upholding Arizona law,” said Mayes. “The Board’s decision to adhere to state-mandated procedures for ballot counting avoids potential legal complications and reinforces public trust in the integrity of our elections.”
During the meeting, State Sen. Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli (R-LD30) said that the county could count on an amicus brief from the House and Senate should the county vote for hand counting ballots and face criminal prosecution.
Supervisor Hildy Angius clarified that hand counting wasn’t as “easy-peasy” as sitting down and physically tabulating the ballot. Angius agreed that problems continue to plague Arizona’s elections, namely calling out mail-in ballots.
Supervisor Ron Gould challenged the notion that no election problems could exist in their county because the law doesn’t allow supervisors access to the voting logs. As a challenge to the strength of voting machines, Gould said that when he served as a state senator in 2005, voting machines in the Republican state representative primary were found to be severely defunct — out of calibration by as much as 18 percent — after a recount flipped the race by 250 votes.
“My biggest concern here today is that folks are losing faith in elections; they don’t think their vote counts,” said Gould. “So much for the infallibility of voting machines.”
Borrelli suggested that Mohave County count ballots through hand counts at the precinct level, then through tabulators at the county level prior to certification. However, Deputy County Attorney Ryan Esplin said that couldn’t be done in light of Mayes’ letter and their own legal analysis. Esplin advised that the board err on the side of caution by adhering strictly to what statute allowed. The county attorney noted that ARS § 16-443 and 16-445 necessarily implied that hand counts could be used, but that 16-622 and 16-602 undermined that argument. Both of those latter statutes were cited by Mayes in her Sunday letter.
“It has to be spelled out in statute, or necessarily implied: that’s the legal standard. There is no statute that specifically authorizes a hand count, and that’s why we say we do not believe you can do a hand count, because there’s no statute that authorizes it,” said Esplin. “Take the safe route: use the machines, because we know those are legal, we know the law, the law says very clear, ‘This is what we do.’”
Supervisors Gould and Angius voted for hand counting ballots; Supervisors Buster Johnson, Jean Bishop, and Travis Lingenfelter voted against.
Mayes sent a letter to the Mohave County supervisors on Sunday that she would file criminal charges against them should they vote to hand count all ballots for the 2024 election and beyond. The attorney general said that the hand count method was not only too slow and less accurate, it also wasn’t permitted by statute. Mayes cited A.R.S. § 16-449, 16-468, 16-602, 16-621, and 16-622.
Mayes also expressed concern that the board was influenced by “bad-faith actors” aiming to sow doubt and undermine Arizona elections.
In a viral response to Mayes’ statement on Monday, conservative commentator Rogan O’Handley criticized Mayes as “an illegitimate attorney general” that benefited from election fraud.
“Yeah forcing ballots into the same machines that shut down on election day in Maricopa is one hell of a way to ‘reinforce public trust,’” said O’Handley.