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supporters of the Arizona Republican Party cheering on November 8, 2022 in Scottsdale, Arizona
Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Arizona has had more than its fair share of election denial lunacy, which should have ended for good with the much-ridiculed Cyber Ninjas “audit” of ballots from the 2020 presidential election.

You might recall, that circus included workers searching for bamboo threads on “Chinese” paper using UV lights and wild conspiracies including one about a farm owned by a Maricopa Supervisor where 165,000 ballots supposedly were fed to chickens before the whole barn burned down—no fowl play ever actually discovered.

But election conspiracies and mistrust run deep in the Grand Canyon State, especially when favored darlings of the right lose in elections across the board. How could that happen, many MAGA die-hards wonder, when everybody they know voted Republican?

This misperception is a common phenomenon, researchers Nicholas Clark and Rolfe Daus Peterson of Susquehanna University have noted, where voters live in “ideological and cultural vacuums” in far-flung rural counties. Arizona officials themselves are susceptible to this erroneous thinking.

Mark Finchem, the GOP candidate for Arizona Attorney General told Time magazine:

“It strains credibility."
“Isn’t it interesting that I can’t find anyone who will admit that they voted for Joe Biden?”

In fairness, I personally know very few Trump voters here in Harlem, New York City.

Many of the state wide and important House elections in Arizona were in fact very close, due to the large numbers of Democrats living in more urban Maricopa and Pima counties. It didn’t help that staunch election deniers were the GOP nominees for all the major statewide offices, from Governor down to Secretary of State.

Nor did it help matters to have a set of voting machine tabulators in Maricopa County, site of significant protests and wild accusations during the 2020 election, suffer a fairly common printer malfunction on Election Day, forcing thousands of completed ballots to be processed elsewhere.

Officials urged voters to use secure drop boxes for these ballots, which only drew further suspicion given the mistrust already sown around them by wholly factually inaccurate films such as 2000 Mules. At one point, armed yahoos even began intimidating voters at ballot drop box locations in the state.

In true MAGA form, Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has refused to concede the election and has filed suit against Maricopa County election officials accusing them of violating election laws.

Former President Trump naturally has weighed in, accusing state election officials of running a “criminal voting operation” and demanding Lake be “installed Governor of Arizona” though it’s unclear what authority might “install” her.

A crowd of “patriots” singing God Bless America and the National Anthem gathered Monday to shout at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, who had the thankless task of meeting to certify the results of the midterm election.

A series of somewhat unhinged speakers blasted the mostly Republican board. One called them “traitors” deserving of capital punishment.

Another warned:

“Your time’s about up, too.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, which still and predictably resulted in a unanimous vote to certify the results, Kari Lake supporters in attendance shouted:

“We, the People, will not comply!”

Comply or not, the state election appeared nearly settled. But two rural counties decided at the eleventh hour to throw in a wrench.

Cochise County in the southeast part of the state and Mohave County in the northwest decided to put off final certification of the results in violation of state law requirements.

In Cochise, election denial activists who had failed to stop the election of 2020 reemerged to challenge the voting machines in 2022, alleging that they had not been properly certified—a claim the state supreme court already had rejected in September.

In Mohave County, officials didn’t give a specific reason for their threat to delay.

Ultimately, Mohave went ahead and certified, but Cochise doggedly held firm, voting to delay certification despite no evidence of any problems with the vote. This deeply frustrated the single Democratic member of the board.

Complained chair Ann English, who was nevertheless outnumbered by the county's two Republican supervisors, Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd:

“There is no reason for us to delay.”

Judd countered,even while acknowledging the machine certification issue was a pretense for her vote:

“Our small counties, we’re just sick and tired of getting kicked around and not being respected.”

She admitted, referring to the voting machine claim:

“It’s the only thing we have to stand on.”

The move in Cochise was met with swift legal action.

The Elias Law Group and the campaign of Katie Hobbs, who won election as governor, are both suing to compel certification by Thursday so that the statewide certification can be completed by December 8, the final day permitted.

In a twist of irony, if the 47,000 Cochise county votes ultimately are excluded from the final official tally, that would flip Arizona House District Six and the state schools’ chief winner from Republican to Democrat, earning the GOP a truly karmic result.

The exclusion of so many votes is highly unlikely; most election lawyers view the case as open and shut and expect the courts to compel the Cochise County supervisors to perform their ministerial duties and certify the damn election results.

It is worth noting the extremist, election-denying, conspiracy-prone candidacies comprising the GOP slate in Arizona were soundly rejected by both Democratic and independent voters, resulting in Democrats controlling all statewide offices that might affect oversight of the 2024 election, including both senator seats and the offices of Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State.

This amounts to a body blow to election denialism in a critical swing state in 2024, one that remains under-appreciated in its significance to our entire democratic system.