Arizona's Maricopa County certifies election results despite claims from Republicans of wrongdoing
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Maricopa County supervisors voted Monday to certify the results of the Nov. 8 election despite a parade of witnesses who accused them of everything from corruption to being traitors.
The unanimous vote by the board of four Republicans and one Democrat came after they said they remain convinced that the results reported were accurate. Those results helped provide the winning margin for several statewide candidates, including Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Katie Hobbs.
But the action by the state's largest county doesn't end the controversy. Also on Monday:
- Supervisors in Cochise County voted 2-1 to miss the legal deadline and delay the formal canvass there, saying they wanted more information about whether the machines were properly certified. The Secretary of State's Office it will "use all available legal remedies'' to compel compliance.
- Bill Gates, who chairs the Maricopa supervisors, refused to comply with a demand by Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction, for information about the election and problems that occurred with tallying equipment on Election Day. Gates said what was sent to the board "does not meet the legal requirements of an enforceable legislative subpoena.''
- A spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich said her agency is "reviewing'' information furnished by Maricopa County in response to a demand by the Elections Integrity Unit for more information on the process.
Gates told the packed audience that the board had no choice but to act on Monday, the last day under state law for counties to conduct a canvass.
"Certification is not an optional act for boards of supervisors,'' he said even as he was jeered by spectators. "We've had this date circled on our calendars for quite a while now.''
And Gates said any registered voter is free to contest the election returns within five days of the statewide canvass, something set for Dec. 5.
But Gail Golec, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for supervisors, insisted that isn't true. She said the Election Procedures Manual says a canvass should not be conducted "until all necessary audits have been completed to verify the accuracy and the integrity of the election results.''
"We do not have accuracy, we do not have integrity in these election results,'' Golec told the board, saying she wants a delay "so we can get some more audits.''
In fact, Golec, representing herself, filed an emergency motion Monday seeking to restrain the county from going ahead with the certification, claiming that the voters were not properly counted and that there were "illegitimate votes.'' But that was immediately rejected by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Brad Astrowsky who said such claims are premature and cannot be filed until after the state canvass.
A parade of others at Monday's hearing were less interested in discussing election law.
"I came here today to get an up close and personal look at the seven traitors to the United States Constitution,'' she said, presumably referring to the five supervisors and two staffers sitting on the dais. She questioned the push to certify.
"What are you hiding,'' Roscoe asked. And she claimed, without any proof, that the county had "plenty of time to go in the back room and print as many ballots as you need to CYA.''
"The voting booth is supposed to be a time for peaceful revolution,'' Roscoe continued. "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution necessary.''
And Chris Hamlet, an unsuccessful candidate for the Mesa school board, called Monday's hearing "political theater,'' saying it was clear the supervisors were going to approve the canvass, no matter what testimony they heard.
Others were upset that the board, facing a full auditorium, limited testimony.
"This whole process of the two minutes is a violation of our First Amendment rights to air, to petition our government and to address our grievances,'' said Randy Miller.
"Who died and made you king?'' he told the board. And Miller, like several others, demanded a new election using paper ballots, counted by hand, with no early voting.
County election officials acknowledged there were problems on Election Day as problems with on-site printers resulted in scanners not being able to read them. That also resulted in long lines at some locations.
They pointed out, however, that each voter whose ballot would not scan for immediate tabulation had the ability to deposit them into a sealed "Door 3'' to be counted later. But some voters refused after being urged by Kelli Ward, who chairs the Arizona Republican Party, not to use that option.
"No one was disenfranchised,'' said Scott Jarrett, the county's elections director.
County officials acknowledged backup at some polling places. But they said that the longest wait time at 85% of the vote centers was no more than 45 minutes.
There were seven locations which had wait times of up to 115 minutes. But county officials said each of these locations had one or more other vote centers "within a few miles that had a wait time ranging from 1 minute to 25 minutes.''
Jack Sellers, one of the Republican supervisors, chided those who came to protest but left before county officials answered the questions they raised.
Less clear is what happens in counties that did not meet Monday's deadline.
The two supervisors in Cochise County who voted to delay said they simply want more information to address claims that the machines that were counting the ballots were properly certified.
"In that group's opinion, the secretary (of state) has not been responsive in providing proof of lawful accrediting of voting machine laboratories,'' said Tom Crosby, one of the Republican supervisors on the board. He said that lack of response "would seem to suggest the inability to provide the requested proof by the secretary.''
Joining him was Peggy Judd, the other Republican on the board.
That decision came despite the fact that Kori Lorick, the state elections director, who wrote to the supervisors last week that the claims "are derived from baseless conspiracies about Arizona's equipment certification process.''
The next step appears to be litigation.
"Arizona voters should know that when they cast their ballot, the secretary of state will do everything in her power to make sure their vote is counted and their voice is heard,'' said Sophia Solis, spokeswoman for the office.
Solis also said if the county doesn't act by the Dec. 5 state canvass, the secretary "will have no choice but to proceed with certification in accordance with election law,'' meaning issuing a final tally that does not include any votes from Cochise County. And that could change the final tally in several races apparently won by Republicans, including for state school superintendent and in Congressional District 6.
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