Arizona County Assigns Election Responsibilities to Election Integrity Champion County Recorder

The Cochise County Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 on Tuesday to turn over management of elections to Cochise County Recorder David Stevens. Cochise County made national headlines last fall when the board attempted to conduct a full hand count of the midterm election and tried to delay certification of the results.

Stevens supported the hand count but was thwarted by then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and progressive attorney Marc Elias, whose law firm sued the board.

Democratic Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is already considering taking action to stop the move. In an email to Arizona Public Media, she said she sent a letter to the board with “serious questions.” She added, “My office will be reviewing all legal options available to us regarding this matter.”

Republican Supervisor Peggy Judd expressed her skepticism of Mayes’ letter, stating, “She just wanted to tell us something to stop us.”

From the 1950s to 2016, Maricopa County had an agreement with its county recorder to oversee elections.

Arizona law splits election duties between the boards of supervisors and the recorders, with the former handling election day operations and the latter overseeing early ballots and voter registration. The vote gives Stevens authority over Election Day operations.

Republican supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd voted yes, while Chairwoman Ann English, a Democrat, voted no.

According to the terms of the agreement, Stevens will report to the board but will maintain autonomy. He will “receive nomination papers and petitions of candidates for public office pursuant to A.R.S. Title 16, Chapter 3 and be responsible for the election department budget and the hiring of its staff.” He will also oversee A.R.S. Title 19 duties, which are referendum and recall petitions. He will be the primary official overseeing “the operation and administration of elections and A.R.S. Title 48 special taxing districts are hereby delegated to the Recorder.” The agreement lasts through December 31, 2024.

The board will still conduct election canvasses.

Elections Director Lisa Marra resigned from her post earlier this year. She refused to turn over ballots for a full hand count when the board requested them. The state’s Election Procedures Manual provides, “counties may elect to audit a higher number of ballots at their discretion.”

Marra said a hand count would take 2,500 hours in total. However, at a board meeting, Sierra Vista resident Joseph Patterson testified that he knew 140 people willing to help count ballots.

Brian Steiner, who is part of a group working to stop the use of machines in elections, said it would not take 2,500 hours.

“However, if you split those hours by the 160 volunteers, then it would only take 15.63 hours to count all ballots,” he told The Arizona Sun Times in October. “With polling places opening at 6 a.m. until 7 p.m., having results by 10 p.m. that night would be easily achievable, and this could be a great test to only using hand counting of ballots in the future.”

Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre, who was recently arrested for DUI, sent a letter to Marra threatening her with arrest and felonies if she allowed the hand count.

“I have alerted the appropriate authorities to the potential violations based upon the statements of two elected officials connected to this,” McIntyre said.

Hobbs also had her State Elections Director Kori Lorick send a letter to the board threatening to sue them if they conducted a hand count.

Former State Representative Joel John (R-Buckeye), who has the lowest conservative rating of any Republican in the Arizona Legislature and endorsed Democrat Adrian Fontes for Arizona Secretary of State, threatened the board with withholding state funding.

Stevens supported the hand count, stating that the county could save money if it stopped using voting machine tabulators. “

There is always a cost to an election, it’s just where you want to spend the money,” he said.

The board sued Marra for refusing to turn over the ballots for a hand count. McIntyre refused to represent the board in its actions, forcing them to hire private attorneys and pay for them out of pocket.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley ruled against the board on the hand count, stating there was “no evidence before this court that the 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.”

Marra cited receiving threats as the reason for her resignation. Public officials like former Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich regularly receive death threats for upholding election integrity and don’t resign, nor do they complain about them publicly. Marra came under fire last year for adding questions to the poll workers’ application, some believe, to screen out those concerned about election fraud, which Marra speaks derisively about frequently on Twitter.

Stevens said he will be hiring someone to run elections under him. Stevens is the director of the Election Fairness Institute, which former Arizona legislator Mark Finchem runs. Finchem, who lost his race for Secretary of State to Democrat Adrian Fontes, is currently litigating an election challenge at the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Stevens was concerned in 2020 that there were election problems with the presidential election and urged a recount. Stevens served in the Arizona Legislature from 2009 to 2017, earning a lifetime rating of 90.71 from the American Conservative Union.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “David Stevens” by Davenport41. CC BY-SA 4.0.


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