Voting Certificate Avoids Chaos, Except in Arizona

SANTA FE, NM — The certification of this year’s midterm election results appears to be proceeding smoothly and with little controversy across the country, with one small Arizona county serving as a rare exception, calming fears that local commissions fueled by talks of electoral conspiracy will wreak havoc if they refuse to confirm the will of the electorate.

Orderly action was also taken in places where suspicions of fair elections ran deep, leading to bitter clashes at local public gatherings.

In Nevada, a state that has been a hotbed of electoral conspiracy allegations and movements to abandon voting machines in favor of hand-counting all ballots, all 17 counties met a Friday night deadline to confirm election results.

In rural Elko County, the county commission unanimously endorsed the results just weeks after questioning the reliability of the voting machines and expressing support for counting all ballots by hand.

The commissioners commended County Clerk Kris Jakeman for a by-election audit that included random hand counts that corroborated machine tab results. Some commissioners had observed the exam and said it helped allay some of their skepticism.

“I’ve learned a lot this year,” said Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi. “And I appreciate everyone’s willingness to educate me and help me become more aware of the whole process.”

Similarly, in New Mexico, several rural county commissions have come under intense pressure from some residents to refuse certification since the June primary.

In Otero County, which experienced a crisis this summer when commissioners initially refused to certify after the primary, general election results were confirmed this week by a drama-free unanimous vote.

“In my heart of hearts, I think Otero County is doing a good job,” said commission chair Vickie Marquardt. “I have no reason not to confirm this choice.”

In another rural New Mexico county, where in June an angry crowd called county commissioners “cowards” and “traitors” when they confirmed early results, the room fell silent this week as the all-Republican board mulled over ballots and signatures electoral judge. The commissioners showered Torrance County election officials with questions before voting 3-0 to confirm.

The commission had spent months responding to doubts about voting systems with a manual recount of primary ballots and invitations to participate in ballot counting machine security tests.

“I see no inconsistencies, commissars. Republican Commission Chairman Ryan Schwebach told colleagues. He won re-election to the local post by about two-thirds of the vote, defeating a challenger who said vote-counting machines could not be trusted. All but one New Mexico county confirmed vote counts this week.

Conspiracy-oriented protesters rallied Friday before an elections board meeting in Reno, Nevada, with signs reading “Do not certify before hand-counting” and “We the people demand hand-counting.” Despite the protests, the Washoe County Commission voted 4-1 to approve the findings.

District Commissioner Jeanne Herman, who represents the most rural part of the district, stretching north to the Oregon border, cast the only dissenting vote. It made a failed attempt earlier this year to push forward an electoral reform package that would have included stationing National Guard troops at polling stations and relying almost entirely on paper ballots.

Christiane Brown, a gun control activist from Reno, told the commission that the system worked this year and even most candidates who accepted the falsehoods in the 2020 election conceded defeat.

“Denying results doesn’t change them,” she said. “The people have rejected lies, disinformation, intimidation and ignorance and hatred.

In Arizona, the state’s 15 counties are just beginning to certify their election results and have until November 28 to conduct their polls and send final vote counts to the secretary of state. Kari Lake, the Republican who lost the gubernatorial race, has refused to back down and said in a video Thursday she has a team of attorneys looking into whether poll-day issues in the election disenfranchised some voters.

The two Republicans who control the board of directors in southeastern Arizona’s Cochise County delayed their certification Friday night after hearing from a trio of conspiracy theorists arguing that vote counting machines are uncertified. The board ignored the testimony of the provincial returning officer, who said the allegation was false.

The board delayed the vote until the Nov. 28 deadline, saying it wanted to see evidence and let the three men rate it. State Elections Commissioner Kori Lorick threatened legal action “to enforce compliance” and ensure the votes of about 46,000 residents were reported.

The state is expected to certify results from all 15 counties on December 5, a step needed before a recount in the attorney general race can proceed, which is too close.

Under Arizona law, the sole role of elected county boards is to accept the numbers as determined by their electoral boards. If they refuse, either the Secretary of State or a candidate would sue.

Voter certification became an issue after Michigan’s 2020 presidential election, when Trump and his allies pressured Republicans on both the state certification committee and in Wayne County, which includes Detroit. The results, which showed Democrat Joe Biden winning the state by 154,000 votes, were eventually confirmed.

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said her office expects there will be no problems confirming the Nov. 8 general election. As of Friday noon, 71 of the state’s 83 counties had certified results.

“More Michigan citizens are voting in midterm elections than ever before, and now bipartisan electoral commissions across the state are confirming the results in accordance with state law,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “We are optimistic that all advertisers will continue to demonstrate this level of professionalism and dedication to upholding the will of voters.”

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Sonner reported from Reno, Nevada. Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta, Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, Gabe Stern in Reno; and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.

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Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow AP’s election coverage of the 2022 election at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

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