PROMO Politics - Election Vote Ballot Security Lock Chain - iStock - viavado

Arizona county opts not to hand count ballots after legal threat

© iStock - viavado
Cameron Arcand

(The Center Square) – The Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 against hand-counting ballots in the 2024 presidential preference primary election, despite support from some Republicans.

The rural Arizona county which includes Kingman and Lake Havasu City was considering the move, but it was already turned down by the board once before in August, according to The Associated Press. The outlet reported that state Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, was pushing for the move, along with the county Republican Party was offering up volunteers to help count ballots in order to avoid incurring any additional election administration costs.

However, Attorney General Kris Mayes said that if the board decided to hand count, a lawsuit and even misdemeanor penalties could be on the table. 

PROMO Map - Arizona State Map - iStock - klenger

"Those encouraging you to hand count elections results are encouraging you to violate the law," Mayes originally said in a letter  Sunday. "In addition to the above civil remedies, you should be aware that an illegally expanded hand count may result in various felony and misdemeanor criminal penalties. We hope you will choose not to violate the law and thus that it will not be necessary for us to consider whether criminal prosecution is warranted for conducting an illegal hand count."

Once the idea was narrowly shot down, the Attorney General praised the move.

"I am greatly relieved and commend the Mohave County Board of Supervisors for their decision not to authorize a hand count of all ballots for the 2024 election, upholding Arizona law," Mayes said in a statement after they voted against it. "As Attorney General, it is my duty to enforce our laws and ensure the integrity of our elections. The Board’s decision to adhere to state-mandated procedures for ballot counting avoids potential legal complications and reinforces public trust in the integrity of our elections."

PROMO Election - Road Sign Elections Ahead Vote - iStock - gguy44

Supervisors Hildy Angius and Ron Gould voted for the hand count, and many members of the public passionately shared their stance on the issue at a meeting on Monday. Borrelli was questioned by the supervisors where the money to support a legal challenge from the state would come from.

"Because I was told the money was there," he said when asked by Supervisor Jean Bishop if he knew where it stemmed from, but said he did not know who exactly the private donors would be. Angius also questioned how private donors would also impact the county's experience as a legal client. 

"He's got donors to fund this," Borrelli told Angius in regards to election lawyer Bryan Blehm, who has represented Kari Lake in her election challenges. 

Despite the possibility of getting private legal funding, Deputy County Attorney Ryan Esplin raised concerns about how fines could negatively hurt the county financially, as well as personal liability costs before it was shot down.

"It's tricky, to say the least," Esplin said moments before the supervisors voted.