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Cochise County officials weighed in on the hand-count plan in court

Cochise County officials weighed in on the hand-count plan in court

PHOENIX (AP) – An official in a rural Arizona county involved in hand-counting all ballots in next week’s election was grilled in court Friday by lawyers representing a group of retirees suing to block the effort.

Cochise County Recorder David Stevens said he will count four races out of about 40,000 votes, using more than 250 volunteers he has recruited from three political parties, after voting closes Tuesday. The Republican vowed that the much smaller hand-counting audit would normally enforce the law to check vote-counting machine equipment. But he admitted that he is avoiding the director of provincial elections, who under the law oversees the process and is responsible for voting.

And in response to questions from Lalitha Madduri, an attorney for the American Alliance of Retired Persons of Arizona, Stevens said she wanted to count about 30,000 early votes, even though the law limits early voting hand-count inspections to 1 percent or 5,000 votes, whichever. is smaller, and to be randomly selected. That precludes a full primary vote count, he said.

“The board gave me permission to do it,” Stevens said. “The court will decide whether it is legal or not. But they voted, it was a two-against vote, they voted for me to do this and the count was 100%.”

The two Republican inspectors who voted for a 100% hand-count, rather than the small sample used in every other election, were pushed to do so by former President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that he was blamed for fraud or counting problems with voting machines. loss in 2020 The table’s lone Democrat objected to the hand count.

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Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey F. McGinley, who is hearing Bisbeen’s case, is tasked with deciding whether the state’s detailed law on hand-counting audits allows the Cochise County Board of Supervisors to expand after the local county court declared a conflict. count on all initial ballots. Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor, says early votes can’t be counted under state law.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, however, issued an informal opinion last week saying all votes can be counted by hand.

McGinley questioned Stevens about the common counting rules and focused on a section of the election rules drafted by the secretary of state that allows counties to expand hand counting at their discretion, which is nowhere in the law. And he wondered how the rules of acceptable margin of error between hand count inspections would apply to a full count.

Stevens said his view was that a full hand count does not need a margin and that whatever that count was would be officially certified. This goes against what the board discussed when it decided to do a full hand count as an official machine count.

Stephanie Stephenson, Cochise County’s St. David, who lives in the small community and is a plaintiff in the case, testified that what he called a fast and abnormal process would jeopardize his vote. He said he has faith in the current system. “I know people have worked for years to create a process,” Stephenson said. “And if all of a sudden my county goes this other way, at this point, no, I don’t trust it.”

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McGinley was still taking testimony as of mid-afternoon Friday and has not said when he might rule. Timing is of the essence, as Stevens said he wants to start hand counts in about a week.

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