Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley on Tuesday urged prosecutors to consider criminal charges against the Cochise County supervisors who refused to certify the county’s election Monday.
Supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd have repeatedly questioned election procedures and also been warned that if they did not canvass their election Monday, the state deadline, they not only could disenfranchise voters in southeastern Arizona but also face criminal penalties.
The supervisors already are facing two civil cases, both seeking to force them to certify the election this week so the statewide canvass can include Cochise County votes Monday.
“Their votes against certification resulted in the three-member Board failing to perform its legal duty to certify the election,” said the letter from Goddard, a Democrat, and Romley, a Republican.
They added that they “take no pleasure in making this prosecution recommendation,” which was sent to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre.
“But we believe deeply that the rule of law dictates that public officials be held accountable when they refuse to comply with their legal obligations — all the more so where those officials’ actions threaten to undo the proper administration and integrity of elections, disenfranchise thousands of voters, and potentially even alter the results of some races,” they wrote.
Romley said the letter was emailed Tuesday.
Arizona law says that people charged with failing to perform their duty in elections in their official capacity, who “knowingly” act in violation of any such law, are guilty of a Class 6 felony. That is the lowest-level felony. While it can result in probation or even prison for up to nearly six years, it also can be reduced to a misdemeanor.
There are also misdemeanor penalties for public officials who simply don’t perform their duties and for people who violate the Election Procedures Manual, which the former prosecutors laid out in their letter.
“This craziness has to stop,” Romley said Tuesday. “They have to understand that, if they are serving the people, whether they like the results of the election or not, they have an obligation. And, quite frankly, I’m getting tired of it.”
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As the Cochise County attorney and others have explained to the supervisors, the letter says the duty to canvass elections is not discretionary, and that state law doesn’t offer the officials any reason not to certify other than if they have not received all the returns, and that is not the case.
“It is time individuals understand there are potential consequences for this,” Romley said.
When Crosby and Judd voted Monday to postpone beyond the deadline, they said they wanted yet another meeting at which they could hear evidence about the county voting machines and whether they were properly certified.
But the New York Times reported that after the meeting, Judd told a reporter from that publication the concerns about the voting machines were just pretext for additional delays that would send a statement that they were unhappy with the way the election was administered in Maricopa County.
“It’s the only thing we have to stand on,” Judd was quoted, referring to the voting machine claim.
Judd, who was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, during the violent protest over President Biden’s election, has repeatedly tried to force the county to conduct a hand recount of the 2022 election.
Then she and Crosby backed off that effort and began questioning whether the voting machines were certified despite evidence from the Secretary of State’s Office and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission that they indeed were.
Romley said Brnovich and McIntyre should investigate and charge the supervisors to prevent other counties from pulling similar moves.
“To allow individuals to not follow the law in these types of things is literally opening a door for other individuals to think they can do it with impunity,” Romley said. “It undermines our elections. It undermines our process.”
Romley served as Maricopa County attorney from 1989 to 2004 and again as an interim county attorney in 2010. Goddard, a former Phoenix mayor, served as Arizona attorney general from 2003 through 2010.
Cochise County is in the southeastern corner of Arizona, bordering New Mexico on the east and Mexico on the south.