Mohave County Supervisor Ron Gould filed a lawsuit against Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes over her threat to prosecute him if he voted in favor of conducting a hand count of the 2024 election. He asked the court in the complaint, which was filed on January 19, to rule “[t]hat Plaintiff should not be subjected to threats and intimidation by the Attorney General for voting to have hand counting be the primary initial method of vote tabulation.”
Represented by Wilenchik & Bartness, Gould (pictured above, right) described the threat, “This case is about an elected official potentially losing his liberty and being jailed as a criminal, if Defendant Mayes is correct, for voting according to his conscience, and pursuant to the will of his constituents, based on election statutes that appear not to bar his intended support for vote counting based on hand counting and not the use of electronic voting machines.”
The complaint said, “Defendant Mayes has further proven her intention to prosecute elected officials who disagree with her interpretation of Title 16 election statutes, as demonstrated by her recent indictment of other Board of Supervisors in other Counties who exercised their rights and obligations, and she appears to be doing so for political reasons, while claiming otherwise.” Mayes (pictured above, left) is prosecuting Cochise County Supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd for voting to delay the Cochise County 2022 election certification by three days.
Gould asserted that hand counting was “the only method of tabulating elections prior to the development of current electronic voting technologies that have been criticized for their deficiencies.”
The controversy began after the Mohave County Board of Supervisors (MCBOS), in a 4-1 vote, instructed the Mohave County Elections Department (MCED) in June 2023 to come up with a plan to tabulate the initial results of 2024 elections by hand. MCED complied and presented the plan at a meeting in August 2023. At the same meeting, Supervisors Gould and Hildy Angius voted to proceed with hand tabulation of ballots for the 2024 elections, and the remaining three supervisors voted against hand-tabulating the ballots.
The complaint noted that the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in October 2023 on an unrelated case that “conducting an expanded hand count of all ballots, as a way of auditing a final count produced by the vote tabulating machines, was illegal.” However, Gould distinguished that situation from the instance involving the MCBOS. “[N]either the appellate court nor the Superior Court in that case addressed the issue here — whether conducting a full hand count, in the first instance, and without any use of vote tabulating machines, is legal or illegal under existing law,” the complaint said.
Gould argued that Title 16, where most of Arizona’s election laws are located, supports the authority of a county board of supervisors to conduct a hand count. The laws state that using electronic tabulating machines is optional, using the word “may.” A.R.S. 16-451 states in part, “The board of supervisors may provide for the payment of the cost of vote tabulating equipment in such manner and by such method as it may deem for the best local interests…” Similarly, A.R.S. 16-443 states that “votes may be . . . counted by . . . vote tabulating devices.”
On November 17, 2023, Supervisor Travis Lingenfelter placed a vote on whether to tabulate the 2024 election with a hand count on the agenda for the November 20, 2023 meeting.
On November 19, 2023, Mayes sent a letter to the MCBOS informing them that voting yes would “violate the law” and “the legal consequences would be serious. … [Y]ou should be aware that an illegally expanded hand count may result in various felony and misdemeanor criminal penalties,” she said. “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.”
Her letter claimed that “ballots may be counted manually only if ‘it becomes impracticable to count all or part of the ballots with tabulating equipment,’” citing the October Arizona Court of Appeals ruling.
Gould and Angius voted yes, with the other three supervisors voting no, defeating the proposed hand count. Gould said Lingenfelter appeared to be on the fence about the vote but finally voted against it due to the threat from Mayes. “[I]t is believed that the pressure of the Attorney General’s threats to the Board members prior to the vote influenced the voting process and ultimate vote,” he said.
He said, “[T]he issue is not finally resolved, and is expected to come up again in the future, and Supervisor Gould intends to continue raising the issue and voting in favor of using hand counting; thus the need to resolve this issue of statewide importance as to whether the Supervisors are properly subjected to criminal prosecution for their vote, and whether the Attorney General’s position on that vote is correct as a matter of law or not.”
The complaint asked the court for a declaratory judgment holding that hand counting is not illegal but optional and to clarify that the Arizona Court of Appeals’ decision only applied to audits after the election.
Mayes is investigating the alternate slate of presidential electors from Arizona’s 2020 election. In March 2023, Mayes sued the Cochise County Supervisors for delegating election duties to the Cochise County Recorder — something Maricopa County had done for years.
In December 2023, the Maricopa County Republican Committee unanimously passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of Mayes due to her politically motivated prosecutions and hostility to election integrity. The Arizona Freedom Caucus is leading efforts to stop the prosecutions.