Mohave County once more rejects proposal to hand-count ballots in 2024

Votebeat is a nonprofit information group reporting on voting entry and election administration throughout the U.S. Join our free newsletters right here.

Mohave County supervisors for a second time Monday rejected a proposal to hand-count ballots forged in 2024 elections as an alternative of utilizing machines.

After two hours of impassioned public feedback and debate quoting everybody from Thomas Jefferson to Yogi Berra, the 5 supervisors once more rejected the proposal in a 3-2 vote, with every supervisor sticking to the place they took in a earlier vote in August.

The vote of Supervisors Chairman Travis Lingenfelter, who voted no earlier this yr, had appeared in play after he put the merchandise again on the assembly agenda. In the course of the assembly, he mentioned he had performed so as a way to fulfill a promise to state Sen. Sonny Borrelli, a Republican who has been touring the state attempting to persuade county supervisors to get rid of tabulation machines.

“I mentioned to Sonny Borrelli, if he covers the authorized price and ensures the extent of volunteers, that I’ll put it again on the agenda,” Lingenfelter mentioned, earlier than addressing Borrelli instantly and including, “my dedication is fulfilled to you.”

Supervisors Ron Gould and Hildy Angius voted in favor of hand-counting, and Jean Bishop, Buster Johnson, and Lingenfelter voted no, with Lingenfelter casting the ultimate, tie-breaking vote.

Public feedback ranged extensively. One Kingman resident teared up Monday as she pleaded with Mohave County supervisors to conform to the hand depend, asking them to contemplate how a lot they valued their freedom.

However one other Mohave County resident instructed supervisors that hand-counting ballots could be a foolish and costly act of “pandering to the misinformed conspiracy theorists in your constituency to get yourselves reelected.”

For his half, Gould instructed the gang he could be prepared to go to jail so the county might hand-count its ballots.

Voting rights teams traveled to Mohave County to emphasise that hand-counting ballots is much less correct and fewer environment friendly than utilizing poll scanners and tabulator machines — and that it’s unlawful. If hand-counting ballots stretched previous the county’s deadline to certify its election, because the elections director has estimated it might, it might probably result in the county’s voters being disenfranchised, they warned.

The northern Arizona county expects about 100,000 voters within the 2024 normal election. The elections director beforehand estimated it might take 657 days to finish a hand depend for that election. Hand-counting all 2024 elections, he mentioned, would price an extra $1.1 million at a time when the county faces an $18 million deficit.

Deputy County Lawyer Ryan Esplin instructed the supervisors Monday that they didn’t have the authority underneath state legislation at hand depend all ballots. In the event that they moved ahead, he mentioned he would advocate to the county lawyer that the workplace not characterize the supervisors in ensuing authorized issues.

That may expose supervisors to private legal responsibility for breaking state legislation and require them to acquire personal counsel. The supervisors had obtained a letter from lawyer Bryan Blehm final week telling them that hand-counting the ballots was authorized and “effectively inside Mohave County’s rights,” and promising he would characterize them in the event that they had been sued for shifting ahead. The prices, he mentioned, could be coated by personal donors, although he didn’t disclose something about them.

However Lawyer Common Kris Mayes despatched a letter to the supervisors on Sunday telling them that she was involved that they’d obtained incorrect authorized recommendation from bad-faith actors making an attempt to create mistrust in elections. “A ‘sure’ vote,” she mentioned, “would direct your Elections Division to violate the legislation.”

“The ensuing delays, inaccurate outcomes, and unlawful procedures from hand counts will then be used to name into doubt legitimate election outcomes,” Mayes wrote. “The Board shouldn’t endorse this assault on the democratic course of.”

Angius requested through the assembly who could be paying Blehm. Borrelli declined to say, or to supply further particulars, however promised that personal people, not organizations, would cowl the price.

Supervisor Jean Bishop pressed him on whether or not the cash had already been put aside, asking, “Is it in an account? Is it in any person’s shoe?”

The chairwoman of the Mohave County Republican Central Committee had written a Nov. 15 letter to the supervisors saying the social gathering might present greater than 300 volunteers for hand counting. That led to a couple residents questioning on Monday if Democrats would even be concerned within the counting in order that the method could be honest.

The supervisors heard from many residents repeating a seize bag of debunked lies about election safety, together with ballot-harvesting claims from elections conspiracy movie “2000 Mules.” Maggie Passaro, the Kingman resident who teared up when talking, introduced up a false declare that the state’s tabulation machines weren’t correctly accredited and licensed earlier than the 2020 election.

Others, although, spoke to the safety of the county’s elections, together with Glenda Erwin, who instructed the supervisors that she had volunteered to look at the early-voting course of. “I noticed democracy at its greatest,” she mentioned.

Johnson mentioned he didn’t know what the supervisors had been attempting to show by hand-counting ballots after they had all agreed earlier than that the county’s elections didn’t have issues.

Earlier than voting sure, Gould mentioned it appeared Mayes was “afraid” of them shifting ahead, suggesting with out proof that she had one thing to cover in regards to the safety of the state’s elections. He maintained his principal concern is that individuals are dropping religion in elections.

“That’s why I’m prepared to do that,” he mentioned. “That’s why I’m prepared to threat that I’m going to get thrown in jail.”

In an announcement launched after the vote, Mayes mentioned she was “relieved” by the supervisors choice to not transfer to the hand depend.

“The Board’s choice to stick to state-mandated procedures for poll counting avoids potential authorized problems and reinforces public belief within the integrity of our elections,” she wrote.

This text was initially revealed by Votebeat, a nonprofit information group masking native election administration and voting entry.