2022 Election: Arizona Secretary of State sues Cochise County over refusal to certify election results

Nov. 28 was the deadline set by Arizona law for counties within the state to approve the official tally of votes for the 2022 election, a process that is also known as the canvass.

For 2022, all Arizona counties, except one, have done so, despite pressure from some Republicans not to officially approve a vote count that had Democrats winning for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide races.

Here's what you should know about what's going on.

What is a canvass?

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which describes itself as an independent, bipartisan commission established by the Help America Vote Act of 2022, a canvass is described as a process that "aggregates and confirms every valid ballot cast and counted, including mail, uniformed and overseas citizen, early voting, Election Day, and provisional ballots."

On the Arizona Secretary of State's website, it is stated that the purpose of a canvass is to officially certify the election. According to state law, elections must be canvassed in no less than six days or more than 20 days following the election.

So, which counties have canvassed the results?

As mentioned above, all Arizona counties, except one, have canvassed the election results.

Initially, Republican supervisors in Mohave County postponed a certification vote until later Thursday after hearing comments from residents angry about problems with ballot printers in Maricopa County. The northwestern Arizona county, however, ultimately did so by the deadline.

Navajo County, a rural Republican-leaning county, voted unanimously to certify after the county attorney warned supervisors they could be sued if they didn’t. In conservative Yavapai County, residents cited problems in Maricopa County in urging the Board of Supervisors not to approve the election results. The meeting was ongoing.

Which county is left?

Officials in Cochise County refused to certify the election, despite no evidence of anything wrong with the count. They voted to remove the certification item from the agenda, moving it to Dec. 2.

Why is Cochise County not certifying the election?

Republican officials in the county refused to certify the election amid pressure from prominent Republicans to reject a vote count that had Democrats winning for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide races.

A week ago, GOP supervisors demanded that the secretary of state prove vote-counting machines were legally certified before they would approve the election results. State Elections Director Kori Lorick has said the machines are properly certified for use in elections.

Are the machines certified?

There are two companies that are accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to conduct testing and certification of voting equipment, such as the electronic tabulators used in Arizona to read and count ballots.

Conspiracy theories surrounding this process surfaced in early 2021, focused on what appeared to be an outdated accreditation certificate for one of the companies that was posted online.

Federal officials investigated and reported that an administrative error had resulted in the agency failing to reissue an updated certificate as the company remained in good standing and underwent audits in 2018 and in early 2021. Officials also noted federal law dictates the only way a testing company can lose certification is for the commission to revoke it, which did not occur.

What's the consequence for not certifying an election?

In her letter, Lorick wrote that the state would sue to force Cochise County supervisors to certify, and if they don’t do so by the deadline for the statewide canvass on Dec. 5, the county’s votes would be excluded.

Democratic election attorney Marc Elias vowed on Twitter to sue the county. Sophia Solis, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, did not immediately comment. Hobbs’s office has previously vowed to sue the county if it misses the deadline.

"The Board of Supervisors had all of the information they needed to certify this election and failed to uphold their responsibility for Cochise voters," Sophia Solis, a spokeswoman for Hobbs, said in an email.

On the night of Nov. 28, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs announced that the Secretary of State's Office has filed a lawsuit against Cochise County.

The lawsuit targets Cochise County, as well as Tom Crosby, Ann English, and Peggy Judd, in their capacities as county supervisors.

"Cochise County had a statutory duty to certify the results of the 2022 General Election by today," a portion of Hobbs' tweet reads.

In documents we obtained, lawyers representing the Secretary of State's Office argued thaat Cochise County has no discretionary power over the issue of certification, due to the wording of relevant laws.

What could happen if Cochise County's votes are excluded?

If Cochise County's votes are ultimately excluded, it threatens to flip the victor in at least two close races — a U.S. House seat and state schools chief — from a Republican to a Democrat.

Were there any other dramas in vote certification?

In Maricopa County, people attended the county's Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 28 where the results were ultimately certified.

Many at the meeting claimed the vote should be thrown out because printers at some vote centers produced ballots with markings that were too light to be read by on-site tabulators. Lines backed up amid the confusion, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who lost the election, has said that an unknown number of her supporters may have been dissuaded from voting as a result.

"I was one of those voters disenfranchised in Wickenberg, in Maricopa County. I tried to vote in person," said Sharon Hubler. She later admitted that despite a printer issue, her vote was ultimately counted.

Others had angrier words.

"The voting booth is supposed to be peaceful revolution. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution necessary," said one person.

"Watching you pledge allegiance to my flag was disgusting! The way you sold us out!" said another person.

Some at the meeting, however, spoke in support of the election process.

"Even in the face of misinformation, intimidation and threats, which I heard today at this podium and is unacceptable, you’re here with courage," said one voter.

What is Maricopa County's response over Lake's allegations?

County officials have said nobody was prevented from voting, and 85% of vote centers never had lines longer than 45 minutes. Most vote centers with long lines had others nearby with shorter waits, county officials said.

The response blamed prominent Republicans, including party chair Kelli Ward, for sowing confusion by telling supporters on Twitter not to place their ballots in a secure box to be tabulated later by more robust machines at county elections headquarters.

The county said that just under 17,000 Election Day ballots were placed in those secure boxes and all were counted. Only 16% of the 1.56 million votes cast in Maricopa County were made in-person on Election Day. Those votes went overwhelmingly for Republicans.

Election canvassing sounds like a mess. Is it like this elsewhere?

Election results have largely been certified without issue in jurisdictions across the country. That’s not been the case in Arizona, which was a focal point for efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election and push false narratives of fraud.

Arizona was long a GOP stronghold, but Democrats won most of the highest profile races over Republicans who aggressively promoted Trump’s disproved claims over the 2020 election. Lake and Mark Finchem, the GOP candidate for secretary of state who lost to Democrat Adrian Fontes, have refused to acknowledge their losses.

Lake has filed a public records lawsuit last week, demanding the county produce documents shedding light on the issue before voting to certify the election. Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich has also demanded an explanation ahead of the vote.

MORE: 2022 Election: Arizona Governor Ducey welcomes Democrat Katie Hobbs

The Republican National Committee and the GOP candidate for Arizona attorney general, Abraham Hamadeh, filed an election challenge in his race, which is slated for an automatic recount with Hamadeh trailing by 510 votes.

RELATED: 2022 Election: Arizona faces prospect of vote recount amid extremely tight races

Ward has urged supporters to push their county supervisors to delay a certification vote until after an afternoon scheduling hearing in the Hamadeh case.

Arizona Senate, Arizona governor, races are still too close to call a day after polls close

Phoenix, AZ - November 10: Election workers look over ballots for readability at the Maricopa County Tabulations and Election Center the day after the midterm elections at the Maricopa County Tabulations Election Center on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 in (Photo by Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Previous reports

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.