A judge on Monday blocked an Arizona county from conducting a manual count of ballots for Tuesday’s upcoming election, a move sought by Republicans over concerns voting machines were unreliable.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey F. McGinley made the decision after a hearing Friday in which opponents called witnesses and presented evidence. An appeal is likely.
The judge said Cochise County officials overstepped their authority by ordering the county recorder to count all votes cast in Tuesday’s election instead of the small sample required by state law.
The opponents, a group of retirees made up of the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and a voter, sued in court to stop a full manual count. They argued that state law only allows for a small manual count of early ballots to ensure counting machines are accurate.
A last-minute change would create chaos and could delay the certification of election results, they said. Cochise County Elections Director Lisa Marra also opposes the expanded count plan, testifying about how it could delay results and jeopardize ballot security.
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“This ruling is a huge victory for all voters in Cochise County, particularly older voters who are more likely to vote early in Arizona,” Saundra Cole, president of the AARA Arizona chapter, said in a statement, AZ Central reported.
The lawsuit only challenged the manual counting of around 30,000 early votes. However, the ruling appears to have blocked a full manual vote count from being cast on Tuesday as well.
“This entire process would be rendered superfluous if the court were to interpret (that section) to initially select 100% of the precinct’s ballots as the starting point,” McGinley wrote.
The two Republicans who hold the majority on the three-member Cochise County Board of Supervisors voted to go ahead with the full manual count of early ballots despite opposition from the Republican-elect county attorney and director election of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. . Both said a full manual count of early ballots is illegal under state election law, which only allows counting 1% or 5,000 of early ballots, whichever is less, to ensure the accuracy of the machines. Hobbs is running for governor.
The ruling comes as Arizona faces several House races and a Senate race that could determine which political party has a majority in Congress. Elected officials on both sides have warned of intimidation tactics and electoral practices that could sway the results in the other’s favor.
Last week, a federal judge in Arizona ordered a temporary restraining order for poll watchers to stay at least 250 feet away from certain polling places, following complaints that people carrying weapons and using masks were intimidating voters.
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The League of Women Voters of Arizona requested the order after Clean Elections USA requested 24-hour surveillance of the polls in Maricopa County, where election controversy remains high two years after the 2020 general election.
Associated Press contributed to this report.