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Arizona officials charged with conspiring to delay midterm election outcome

PHOENIX — Two Republicans who lead a rural county in southern Arizona were indicted by a state grand jury this week for allegedly flouting last year’s deadline to formally accept the results of the 2022 midterm election.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) on Wednesday announced the felony indictments of Cochise County Supervisors Peggy Judd and Terry Thomas “Tom” Crosby. The two are charged with interference with an election officer and conspiracy.

The indictment states the two county officials conspired to delay the canvass of their county’s votes, creating chaos that could have undermined the projected victories of Republicans in a U.S. House seat and the statewide race for schools superintendent. The three-member Cochise County board eventually did vote to certify the results of the election, but only after a judge ordered they do so.

Judd did not respond to requests for comment. Dennis Wilenchik, an attorney representing Crosby, said in a statement that the indictment was “the product of nothing but political partisanship” and that he intends to “vigorously defend” his client.

“The Conspiracy is solely based on an alleged ‘agreement’ to interfere that is non existent as there was none,” Wilenchik said. “Nor would it be pursuant to any unlawful end even had it existed.”

The indictments mark a rare example of possible criminal consequences in battleground Arizona, where election-related conspiracy theories have flourished since Donald Trump’s loss in the state in 2020. County officials, state lawmakers and GOP candidates have continued to try to delegitimize election outcomes and procedures, and public officials are deeply concerned about any potential efforts to delay or derail the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.

Mayes’s office has been investigating the actions of the two county supervisors since at least the summer.

“The repeated attempts to undermine our democracy are unacceptable,” Mayes said in a statement announcing the indictments. “I took an oath to uphold the rule of law, and my office will continue to enforce Arizona’s elections laws and support our election officials as they carry out the duties and responsibilities of their offices.”

Each crime carries a maximum punishment of 2½ years in prison and a $150,000 fine, according to the attorney general’s office.

The indictment was filed Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court. According to the indictment, on or between Oct. 11, 2022, and Dec. 1, 2022, Judd and Crosby conspired to delay the canvass of their county’s votes from the November general election.

The indictment alleges that the two knowingly interfered with the secretary of state’s ability to finish the statewide canvass for the election by delaying a vote to formally accept their county’s votes during the time period required by state law. Eventually, a judge ordered the board to certify the results.

“You will meet today,” Superior Court Judge Casey F. McGinley told the three members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors last year. “You will canvass the election no later than 5 o’clock.”

When the board convened at 3:30 p.m., with Crosby absent, Judd and the remaining supervisor, Ann English, a Democrat, voted to certify the results.

The surrender, under court order, ended a standoff in Cochise County that threatened to upend the state’s process for affirming the will of more than 2.5 million Arizona voters.

Wilenchik, who represents Crosby, noted that the secretary of state ultimately met the legal deadline to certify the state’s election results, making the claim of interference against the supervisors “problematic” and “kind of nonsensical.”

Tim Eckstein, an Arizona criminal defense lawyer with experience working on election-related cases, said the indictments represents a test of the legal obligations placed on elected officials in this politically competitive state.

“I’m sure one of the motivating factors behind this indictment is to discourage other similarly situated county officials from doing what these two are alleged to have done,” Eckstein said.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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