Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake took Democrat Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs to task for threatening legal action against a county after its board voted to conduct a full hand count audit of the midterm election.
The Associated Press reported Monday that the Cochise County board of supervisors voted to conduct the hand count in addition to the normal machine tabulation of the ballots.
The rural county in southeast Arizona has a population of approximately 126,000. Nearly 60,000 of its residents voted in the 2020 presidential election, with then-President Donald Trump carrying the county by about a 20 percentage-point margin.
Arizona State Elections Director Kori Lorick, who works for Hobbs, wrote a letter to the Chochise County Board of Supervisors last week threatening legal action if the county conducts a full hand count.
“As you know, Arizona has rigorous standards in place to ensure that electronic voting systems used in our elections are secure and accurate, including federal and state certification requirements, pre- and post-election logic and accuracy testing, and post-election limited hand count audits,” Lorick said.
“Even if, as indicated at the Board’s October 11, 2020, work session, the Board intends to tabulate votes electronically and conduct a full hand count only to audit those machine-tabulated results, the Board has no authority to do so,” she added.
Lorick stated the only time a full hand recount is authorized by state law is when the margin separating the candidates falls within the designated margin of less than or equal to one-half of one percent.
Cochise County plans to vote to hand count every single race on every single ballot—w/ Election Day just 18 days away & early voting already started. That’s illegal & risks the integrity & accuracy of the election. I’ve warned them: If they proceed, I’ll take legal action. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/mqJN3KzpCa
— Secretary Katie Hobbs (@SecretaryHobbs) October 21, 2022
“If the Board votes to proceed with a full hand count — putting at risk the accuracy and integrity of our elections — the Secretary will take all available legal action to ensure Cochise County conducts the 2022 general election in compliance with Arizona law,” Lorick wrote.
She closed warning the secretary of state’s office will seek to shift all legal fees accrued onto the county.
In a Tuesday news release, Lake responded, “Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has once again demonstrated her failure to grasp the basics of election laws in Arizona and her arrogance toward local officials who are trying to restore faith and confidence in our elections.”
“Despite what Katie Hobbs threatens, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors has every right, as they have just voted to do, to expand the statutory hand count,” Lake continued.
“The statute in question states that a county shall count ‘at least’ two percent of the precincts,” she said. “That means a county may count as many additional precincts as it wants to.”
Arizona election law requires a hand count audit: “At least two percent of the precincts in that county, or two precincts, whichever is greater, shall be selected at random from a pool consisting of every precinct in that county.”
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) October 25, 2022
Lake pointed to some other significant problems that have occurred during the current election cycle, arguing Hobbs’ failure to understand the plain language of the election law regarding hand count audits is the latest example.
Additionally, during the primary election in August, Pinal County, the state’s third most populous, ran out of ballots in more than a dozen polling places, according to NPR.
Further Pinal County mailed out approximately 63,000 early voting ballots that had either the wrong municipal elections listed for the voter getting the ballot or the municipal elections for that voters are completely missing.
Lake would like to see all counties follow Cochise County’s lead.
“Cochise County should be applauded for standing up to Hobbs’ misguided bullying and standing its ground,” she said.
“I urge all counties to seriously consider adopting similar plans for an expanded hand count of the ballots by bipartisan teams observed by poll watchers from both political parties,” Lake added.
“We must do everything we can to restore the integrity of our elections and protect our democracy.”
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