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Why new election-related charges against Arizona officials matter

The more there are incidents in which officials balk at certifying elections, the more we’re reminded about the consequences of the post-2020 “big lie.”


The primary elections in New Mexico in June 2022 were largely unremarkable. Candidates ran, voters participated, ballots were counted, and election results were announced. It couldn’t have been more routine — except for one thing.

As regular readers might recall, in New Mexico’s Otero County, some Republican commissioners balked at certifying the results of local primary races. These GOP officials didn’t have any specific reasons to reject the results, but they had some conspiracy theories related to voting machines, so they refused to do their jobs based on their baseless hunches.

Eventually, New Mexico’s secretary of state filed suit, and the state Supreme Court issued an order that the Republicans agreed to follow. But the fact that these extra steps were necessary was unsettling. An Associated Press report described the mess in New Mexico at the time as “a preview of the kind of chaos election experts fear is coming in the fall midterms and in 2024.”

The article quoted Jennifer Morrell, a former election official in Colorado and Utah who now advises federal, state, and local officials, saying, “We are in scary territory. If this can happen here, where next? It’s like a cancer, a virus. It’s metastasizing and growing.”

That quote came to mind reading this NBC News report out of Arizona on Wednesday:

A grand jury voted to indict two local officials who delayed the certification of midterm election results in 2022 in Cochise County, Arizona, state Attorney General Kris Mayes said Wednesday. Cochise County Supervisors Peggy Judd, 61, and Tom Crosby, 64, voted against certifying the county’s election results by the statutory deadline in 2022, after months of casting baseless doubt on the integrity of the election.

A report in The Arizona Republic added that the local GOP officials, in the wake of last fall’s elections, forced a delay in the certification process, saying they wanted to consider questions about voting machines. “By that time,” the article noted, “they had ignored repeated legal advice that their actions were illegal.”

As was the case in New Mexico several months earlier, litigation was filed, culminating in a court order in which supervisors in Cochise County were ordered to certify the results. Officials honored the court directive, though one of the two indicted Republicans didn’t show up for the vote.

One of the pair also attended Donald Trump's anti-election rally on Jan. 6, 2021, but she denied entering the Capitol.

“The repeated attempts to undermine our democracy are unacceptable,” the local prosecutor said in a written statement after a grand jury indicted the two GOP officials. “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.”

At first blush, this might seem like a random local legal dispute, but I keep thinking about the aforementioned quote from the former election official in Colorado and Utah: “It’s metastasizing and growing.”

The more incidents like these pop up, the more we’re reminded about the lingering consequences of the post-2020 “big lie.”