Cochise County certifies election results as lawyers for Kari Lake and Mark Finchem are sanctioned – Reuters

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An Arizona judge on Thursday ordered the board of directors of a ruby-red county in the state’s southeast to certify the results of the Nov. 8 election, saying its members lacked the power to stand evade an obligation imposed by the law of the State.

“You will meet today,” Superior Court Judge Casey F. McGinley told the three members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors. “You will apply for the election no later than 5 p.m..”

When the board met at 3:30 p.m., with a Republican absent, the two remaining supervisors, a Republican and a Democrat, voted to certify the results.

The court-ordered surrender ended a standoff in Cochise County that threatened to upend the state’s process to affirm the will of more than 2.5 million Arizona voters. The ensuing chaos could have undermined projected Republican victories in a U.S. House seat and the statewide race for superintendent of schools.

Katie Hobbs, Democratic Secretary of State and Governor-elect, has taken aggressive steps to avoid this scenario. His office sued the Cochise County Board of Directors on Monday, after its members voted 2-1 to flout a deadline for all counties to certify results in a process known as canvassing. State certification is scheduled for December 5.

The outcome in Cochise County unfolded as a federal judge, also on Thursday, sanctioned attorneys for Kari Lake and Mark Finchem, the unsuccessful GOP candidates for governor and secretary of state, respectively. Taken together, the orders show how judges disdain efforts to politicize ministerial roles and undermine election administration.

Federal Judge John Tuchi of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona wrote that the penalties “would send a clear signal that the Court will not condone litigants…promoting false narratives that baselessly undermine public trust. at a time of growing misinformation and mistrust in the democratic process.

Lake and Finchem sued Maricopa County earlier this year seeking a manual vote count in that county, home to Phoenix, as well as Pima County, home to Tucson. Tuchi dismissed their suit in August, determining that Lake and Finchem had made vague and unsubstantiated allegations about flaws in the voting machines. They filed a notice of appeal the following month.

In his new ruling on Thursday, the judge said the penalties in the case were appropriate “to send a message to those who may bring similar baseless lawsuits in the future.”

Tuchi, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2013 by President Barack Obama, felt that paying attorney fees for Maricopa County was an appropriate sanction because the county and its attorneys had to “spend time and resources to defend this frivolous lawsuit rather than to prepare for the elections on which the claims of the plaintiffs have raised a cloud of dust.

Attorneys for Lake and Finchem were not named in the judge’s order, which ordered Maricopa County to itemize their attorneys’ fees within 14 days. Among the lawyers listed by the candidates in court filings was Alan Dershowitz, the former Harvard Law School professor who previously advised former President Donald Trump.

Lake, Finchem, Dershowitz and other attorneys involved in the case did not respond to requests for comment.

The case was largely funded by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who promoted debunked allegations of voter fraud. Lindell told The Washington Post on Thursday night that he has yet to speak to sanctions attorneys and noted that they have appealed Tuchi’s dismissal of the underlying case. He said the sanctions were unjustified. “They had more experts and more evidence than any case in history,” he said. “It’s disgusting what judges do, including this one.”

The judge only sanctioned the candidates’ lawyers, not the candidates themselves, although he pointed out that “the Court does not consider that the plaintiffs acted appropriately in this case – far from it”.

“Saving the plaintiffs’ attorney here is not letting the plaintiffs off the hook,” he added. “This is to penalize the specific conduct of an attorney with the broader purpose of deterring similar baseless filings initiated by anyone, whether an attorney or not.”

Lake, who has not conceded his race, was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida on Thursday when the order dropped in Arizona, according to a person familiar with his activities who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss non-public events. She was scheduled to speak there and accept an award at an event organized by Moms for America, which says it is a “national movement of mothers to demand our culture for truth, family, freedom and the Constitution”.

Tuchi’s order punctuated an already dramatic day in Arizona, where post-election fighting thrust Cochise County into the spotlight. County supervisors appeared in court Thursday without legal representation, having only obtained an attorney in the afternoon.

County attorney Brian McIntyre declined to represent the supervisors in the case, having previously advised them that their action was illegal. Then they sought to retain Bryan Blehm, the attorney who represented cybersecurity firm Cyber ​​Ninjas in its random audit of Arizona’s 2020 election, but he declined to take the case.

Tom Crosby, one of the two supervisors behind the decision to delay certification, asked the judge to postpone the proceedings until next week so that the lawyer found by the board, Daniel McCauley, could get to the point. current of the case. The judge refused, saying any further proceedings were “not in the interests of justice”. McCauley did not respond to a request for comment.

The judge appeared to be considering simply ordering supervisors to approve the solicitation at a meeting already scheduled for Friday, asking a lawyer from the secretary of state’s office if a further one-day delay would inconvenience state officials. responsible for certification next week. The lawyer, Andy Gaona, replied that an approval on Friday would be acceptable if certain conditions were met.

But a heated argument for ordering the council to act that afternoon came from its only Democratic member, Ann English. She had opposed Monday’s vote to delay the ministerial decision.

She warned the judge that Crosby intended to use Friday’s meeting as “a kind of slap in the face between the Secretary of State and the Holocaust deniers he has on his agenda.” Crosby said he had concerns about the equipment used in the election.

The judge, in ordering the council to meet on Thursday, said such concerns were “no reason to delay a solicitation”. He found that state law “unambiguously requires” counties to certify results by Nov. 28 unless the tabulation of votes is incomplete.

Crosby did not show up when council met later Thursday to comply with the judge’s order. He said in an email that he did not come “on the advice of council counsel”, but did not answer further questions. The other Republican, Peggy Judd, said: “I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done.”

She said she felt compelled to vote to approve the results “because of a court ruling and because of my own health and the situations that are going on in our lives.”

But, she added, “I don’t like being threatened.”

Behind the scenes, the secretary of state’s office also issued direct warnings to at least one other county about the consequences of refusing to certify, according to emails released via a public records request.

When officials in GOP-controlled Mohave County met Monday to take the certification, Supervisory Board Chairman Ron Gould said, “I found out today that I have no other choice but to vote yes or I will be arrested and charged with a felony.

Communications from state election officials made it clear what he meant.

Kori Lorick, the state’s Chief Electoral Officer, wrote in an email earlier today to the Board of Overseers that, “Our office will take all legal steps necessary to ensure that Arizona voters have their votes counted, including firing individual supervisors who vote not to certify for criminal enforcement.

Ruby Cramer contributed to this report.

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