(AP) -- Arizona's attorney general on Tuesday sued to stop a transfer of election duties in a rural county where the leaders have embraced voting conspiracy theories.
The Republican majority on the Cochise County Board of Supervisors voted last week to transfer of all election functions from the nonpartisan elections department to the county's elected recorder, also a Republican. The move follows the resignation of the elections director, who had objected to the board's efforts to conduct a full hand count of last year's vote.
Attorney General Kris Mayes said switching the duties from the elections office to the recorder was illegal.
"While counties may appropriately enter into cooperative agreements with their recorders to manage elections, Cochise County's agreement steps far over the legal line," Mayes said in a news release announcing the lawsuit.
Mayes contends the agreement improperly gives all power to county recorder David Stevens rather than being a "hand in hand" agreement to work with the county's three supervisors. The county's two Republican supervisors, Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, voted for the agreement while the lone Democrat on the board, Ann English, voted against it.
Crosby and Judd have said they believe the transfer is legal under Arizona law and that they have little choice because the elections director, Lisa Marra, resigned as of last month, citing threats and intimidation. In an interview Tuesday, Stevens said of the lawsuit: "It doesn't make any sense."
The lawsuit is only the latest legal fight between the state and Cochise's Republican supervisors over their embrace of unorthodox election procedures stemming from conspiracy theories spread by former President Donald Trump after his 2020 loss.
During the November 2022 election, at the urging of Crosby and Judd, Stevens was prepared to count all ballots by hand until a judge stopped it. Crosby and Judd then refused to certify the county's elections results, protesting what they contended were irregularities in Maricopa County that they blamed for statewide wins by Mayes and other Democrats. A judge eventually forced them to sign off on the election.
Stevens is a friend of former Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican who attended the Jan. 6,2021, rally in Washington, D.C., that preceded the violent attack on the Capitol. He ran unsuccessfully last year for the state's top elections post, secretary of state. Stevens recently agreed to serve on the board of an elections-related nonprofit Finchem founded.
Recorders already have some elections duties in Arizona -- they print ballots, mail them out and verify signatures on returned ones. But the elections office, which reports to the county supervisors, handles tabulation and Election Day voting.