Arizona Governor-elect Hobbs ultimatum to county board: Certify her election or face felony rap

"We believe that Mohave County voters were disenfranchised by the problems that they had in Maricopa County," said Ron Gould, the chairman of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors.

Published: November 30, 2022 7:44pm

Updated: December 1, 2022 2:09pm

The office of Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, now the governor-elect, threatened the Mohave County Board of Supervisors with legal action and criminal referral unless they certified the 2022 vote in their county.

Mohave County waited until Nov. 28, the deadline for Arizona counties to certify, to vote on the certification of its election because of the host of issues that plagued Election Day in Maricopa County, casting a cloud over Hobbs' razor-thin victory in the gubernatorial race over GOP nominee Kari Lake, the consistent leader in pre-election opinion polling.

Two of the supervisors on the Mojave County board said they were voting to certify the election "under duress," after being warned that they would "be arrested and charged with a felony" if they didn't, according to the board chairman, Ron Gould.

While Mohave County's own election was problem-free, the Board of Supervisors was concerned about the election issues in Maricopa County, said Gould.

"We believe that Mohave County voters were disenfranchised by the problems that they had in Maricopa County," Gould said in an interview Wednesday on Real America's Voice TV's "The War Room."

"Their mistakes are bigger than our entire county vote, and I think it's disenfranchised the rural voters across the state, not to mention that it disenfranchises Maricopa County voters and Republican voters, in particular, who are more likely to cast their ballot at the poll" on Election Day, he said. "So any problems at the poll affect Republicans more than they would affect Democrats."

Had the board declined to certify its election, however, the county's votes would not have been included in the state total, Gould explained, which would have handed two Republican statewide seats to the Democrats. Moreover, lawsuits against the election results cannot move forward until the state has certified the election.

In a Nov. 23 letter to the Mojave County Board, State Elections Director Kori Lorick, who serves under Hobbs in the secretary of state's office, said that the canvass — or certification — of the election "is not discretionary."

"Because the Board has no authority to change or reject the results, the canvass is a purely ministerial act," Lorick wrote.

On Nov. 28, Lorick emailed the county board. Reminding the supervisors again of their "non-discretionary statutory duty to canvass the 2022 General Election results by today," she invoked the threat of prosecution of the holdouts. 

"The only basis for delaying the county canvass is pursuant to A.R.S. 16-642(C) if returns from a polling place are missing, and that is indisputably not the case here," she wrote. "If Mohave County does not perform their ministerial duty to canvass your election results today, we will have no other choice but to pursue legal action and seek fees and sanctions against the Board.

"Our office will take all legal action necessary to ensure that Arizona's voters have their votes counted, including referring the individual supervisors who vote not to certify for criminal enforcement under A.R.S. 16-1010."

Under the cited statute, an election official "who knowingly refuses to perform" their election duties "is guilty of a class 6 felony unless a different punishment for such act or omission is prescribed by law."

Gould said he has an attorney looking into the legal interpretation holding the supervisors criminally liable for voting against certification, "because I just think that's the wrong decision, so we'll appeal that to the attorney general."

Arizona state Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) told Just the News on Thursday, "Katie Hobbs' threats directed at the Mohave County Supervisors is a gross abuse of power and highlight the dangerous conflict of interest that exists in allowing her to manage her own election. Hobbs has made it clear that she is willing to exploit every lever of power for her own personal gain — something that should deeply concern Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike."

Regarding the disenfranchisement of Arizona voters, Hoffman said, "Rural counties are rightly concerned that the singular point of systemic failure in this election — Maricopa County — contains more than 62% of the state's total electorate. This disproportionate control over the outcome of elections strips rural county voters of their voice when electing statewide public officials."

Hobbs' office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

At least 72 vote centers in Maricopa County had issues on Election Day, from ballots rejected by tabulators to hours-long lines for voting, according to reporting by Republican election observers filed with the Arizona attorney general's office.

The attorney general's office raised concerns regarding the county's administration of the Nov. 8 election in a Nov. 19 letter to the Maricopa County Attorney inquiring into the widespread irregularities reported in the county on Election Day. The letter gave a deadline of Nov. 28 for the county to respond.

"The Elections Integrity Unit ('Unit') of the Arizona Attorney General's Office ('AGO') has received hundreds of complaints since Election Day pertaining to issues related to the administration of the 2022 General Election in Maricopa County," Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright wrote.

"These complaints go beyond pure speculation, but include first-hand witness accounts that raise concerns regarding Maricopa's lawful compliance with Arizona election law," she said.

On Nov. 27, the county replied to the letter, saying that it followed the law on Election Day and the election problems were "regrettable." The county insisted, however, that "every lawful voter was still able to cast his or her ballot."

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted to certify its election on Monday, after listening to a flood of voter complaints regarding issues they experienced trying to vote on Election Day.

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