Arizona County Backs Off Protest, Certifies Election Results

An Arizona county whose Republican supervisors had refused to certify last month’s election results relented on Thursday under court order, ending an unusual standoff that had threatened to delay the formal end of the election in the closely watched battleground state.

In a hastily arranged meeting, the board of supervisors in Cochise County voted 2 to 0 to approve the final canvass of votes in the largely rural county in the southeast corner of the state. The move came hours after Judge Casey F. McGinley of Pima County Superior Court ordered members of the board of supervisors to take action by the end of the day.

Whatever concerns they had about the election, “it is not a reason to delay” finalizing the results, Judge McGinley said at a hearing on the matter.

The board’s two Republican members, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby, had said they were stalling to hear out the concerns of right-wing activists promoting a legal theory — one previously debunked by federal election officials and rejected by the state’s courts — that the state’s electronic voting equipment was invalid.

But in an interview this week with The New York Times, Ms. Judd characterized the delay as a way to protest the election in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, where Republican candidates have clashed with Republican election officials over unproven claims that November’s election was compromised by technical problems.

Before she voted to give up the protest, Ms. Judd acknowledged she would be disappointing some people.

“I’m going to make a lot of people happy, and some people are going to stay mad at me anyway, but that’s OK, too,” she said. “I’m a person and our lives are all like that, ups and downs and happy and sad.”

Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, sued the Cochise County board of supervisors on Monday for refusing to certify the county’s election by the deadline. The action had threatened to delay the statewide certification of the results beyond the legal deadline of Dec. 5.

Ms. Hobbs, a Democrat who defeated the Republican Kari Lake in the governor’s race last month, argued in the lawsuit that the Cochise County board had overstepped its bounds. Judge McGinley on Thursday agreed, saying the board had “exceeded its lawful authority” in delaying certification.

His decision followed a brief but chaotic hearing in which the county board members appeared without a lawyer. The county attorney, Brian McIntyre, had for weeks opposed a series of efforts by Ms. Judd and Mr. Crosby to audit or delay certification of last month’s election, arguing that they were illegal.

In the hearing, Ann English, the board’s chairwoman and its lone Democratic member, spoke up in opposition and expressed concerns about a board meeting scheduled for Friday, in which Mr. Crosby had hoped to have a group of Arizona election deniers and representatives of Ms. Hobbs’s office present their cases against and for certification — “a sort of a smackdown,” she said.

“I think it’s a circus that doesn’t even have to happen,” Ms. English told Judge McGinley in the hearing. “I’ve had enough. I think the public’s had enough.”

Ms. English and Ms. Judd voted to end the standoff. Mr. Crosby did not attend the board meeting.

Mr. Crosby and Ms. Judd had at various times said that their efforts were necessary to assuage the concerns of their constituents, citing a variety of election conspiracy theories and false claims that have taken root in a large swath of the Republican electorate.

In a rebuke of some of these theories, a federal district judge in Arizona found on Thursday that Ms. Lake and Mark Finchem, the losing Republican candidate for secretary of state, had made “false, misleading and unsupported factual assertions” in a lawsuit that the judge, John J. Tuchi, said was worthy of sanctions.

The judge found that Ms. Lake and Mr. Finchem did not meet the standards for receiving sanctions themselves, “although the court does not find that plaintiffs have acted appropriately in this matter — far from it.” He said he would determine who among the lawyers involved in the case should be sanctioned.

Alan Dershowitz, one of the lawyers on the case, and other attorneys for Ms. Lake and Mr. Finchem did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The legal fallout from the election in Arizona is likely to continue. Ms. Lake has said she plans to file a lawsuit contesting the results of the election as soon as Monday, as does Abe Hamadeh, the Republican candidate for attorney general, who is trailing his opponent by only around 500 votes.

Mr. Hamadeh already filed such a suit last week, but it was dismissed on Tuesday after a state judge found it was “premature.”

Ken Bensinger contributed reporting.

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