Mohave County Board of Supervisors rejects proposal to hand count ballots in 2024 election

By Camryn Sanchez
Published: Monday, November 20, 2023 - 6:19pm

Mohave County Board of Supervisors livestream
A livestream of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Top Mohave County politicians rejected a motion to hand-count ballots in the upcoming 2024 elections citing legal concerns.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted 2-3 on Monday against the proposal. It’s the second time Republicans, who hold every seat on the board, rejected a plan to hand count ballots. They voted the same way on the same issue in August.

That August vote followed a trial hand-count tabulation of 850 ballots by county officials. It showed that hand-counted results were less accurate, would take hundreds of days and would cost more than $1 million.

Still, Supervisor Travis Lingenfelter – the board chair – brought up the issue again last week, adding it to Monday’s agenda. Lingenfelter said Monday he made a commitment to state Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, to raise the issue once more.

Borrelli and Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, spent much of the summer on tour, going county to county to tell supervisors that all of Arizona’s counties should hand count ballots exclusively. The lawmakers cited a non-legally binding resolution the Republicans passed in 2022 that urged counties to conduct hand counts. Republicans also tried to pass legislation that would have imposed the same concepts as law, but it was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs. 

Borrelli told the board Monday that he has a “crew” ready to train people in Mohave County to hand count ballots efficiently. He also claimed that he had money from private donors to cover the county’s legal fees in the likely event of a lawsuit challenging the legality of a hand count of ballots. Borrelli also said the board could “pretty much count on” an amicus brief from the Senate and House of Representatives in support.

Man in suit holding up bingo cards.
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Arizona state Sen. Sonny Borrelli on Oct. 2, 2023.

Supervisor Jean Bishop questioned Borrelli about where that money is, but he did not provide an answer. Mohave County is currently facing a budget deficit of more than $18 million in the next fiscal year.

Supervisors were also provided a letter from attorney Bryan Blehm, who has represented failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2022 election. Blehm is a Scottsdale-based divorce attorney who has been sanctioned by the Arizona Supreme Court and is under investigation by the State Bar of Arizona.

Blehm wrote that he would represent Mohave County for free. 

“Arizona law makes the use of machines to tabulate ballots elective, and the Secretary of State has no legal authority to rewrite Arizona statute. It is well within Mohave County’s right to hand count its ballots,” Blehm wrote.

Kris Mayes
Gage Skidmore/CC BY 2.0
Kris Mayes in 2022.

In her own letter to Mohave County supervisors, Attorney General Kris Mayes noted that she’s concerned the board has received “incorrect legal advice from bad-faith actors who are attempting to sow doubt in Arizona’s elections.” Mayes, a Democrat, also warned that passing the motion to hand count ballots would direct the elections department “to violate the law” and would result in litigation. 

“We will promptly sue and obtain a court order,” Mayes wrote.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney Ryan Esplin told supervisors that Mayes would likely win that case, and said he’d recommend that his boss not represent the board in court if the motion passed. 

“I’m of the opinion that you have an uphill battle to win in court on the hand count argument. I wouldn't take that chance, and so I recommend that you vote against it,” Esplin said.

After more than two hours of consideration and public comment, Supervisors Hildy Angius and Ron Gould voted “yes,” while Lingenfelter, Bishop and Johnson voted “no” as they did in August.

Lingenfelter was the final deciding vote. After a pause, he said he would vote “no” then immediately adjourned the meeting. 

Mohave County is the third county where efforts pushing for hand counts of ballots have not been successful. 

Cochise County implemented hand counts, lost in court, and then lost on appeal

Pinal County recently considered implementing hand counts, but were pressured to stop by legal concerns. Like in Mohave County, the Pinal county attorney warned the board of supervisors that they would be sued and that they would lose if they implemented hand-count only tabulation.

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