Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes sues Cochise County for handing over election control to Recorder David Stevens

Recorder David Stevens speaks at a Cochise County Republican Club event in 2022. Also at Stevens’ table was friend and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem. Photo courtesy of Kaylee Nix, || via Votebeat

By Mary Jo Pitzl || The Arizona Republic

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office sued Cochise County officials on Tuesday over their recent decision to give nearly all of the authority for running elections to the county recorder.

Attorney General Kris Mayes alleges in the lawsuit that the board’s Feb. 28 action was illegal, arguing the Board of Supervisors had no power to hand its elections duties to another county officer, in this case, Recorder David Stevens.

“Without legislative authorization, a board of supervisors may not give its powers and duties over elections to the sheriff, assessor and anyone else — including the recorder,” the lawsuit states. Mayes, a Democrat, is seeking an injunction on the board’s decision and is asking the Cochise County Superior Court to void the agreement that hands more duties to Stevens.

Named in the lawsuit are Supervisors Tom Crosby, Peggy Judd and Ann English, as well as Stevens. Crosby and Judd, both Republicans, voted 2-1 to approve the move at a Feb. 28 meeting; English, a Democrat, voted against the change.

The lawsuit also seeks to block Stevens from making any payments related to elections, as well as stopping him from taking any actions outlined in the three-page agreement the supervisors approved.

The supervisors called an emergency meeting for Wednesday to discuss the matter, which could affect their ability to hold a scheduled May 16 election on a countywide jail tax.

Stevens said without an agreement in place, the county has no one immediately available to administer the duties typically carried out by the elections director, specifically handling operations on the day of the election along with ballot tabulation.

One way to end the dispute is to cancel the May 16 election, voiding the need for an elections director — at least in the short term, Stevens said.

“If they cancel the election, it all goes away,” he said of the dispute over the extent of the powers he can exercise over elections.

The county’s former elections director resigned earlier this year, citing harassment and threats from the two Republican supervisors as well as community members. Lisa Marra has since been hired as the assistant state elections director by Secretary of State Adrian Fontes.

Stevens said he did not seek to assume the elections duties — the recorder is responsible for voter registration and early voting — but was up to the task.

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