COCHISE COUNTY, Ariz. — The political chaos spawned in southern Arizona's Cochise County could be coming to end.
A Republican-controlled County Board that has sewn confusion around Arizona's midterm election rushed to retain a lawyer to defend itself in court Thursday from lawsuits that would force the board to certify the county's election.
A judge ordered the county board to meet Thursday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. and certify the results by the end of the day.
That's two business days before the scheduled certification of Arizona's statewide vote on Monday.
On Thursday, the judge said the board "exceeded its lawful authority" by not canvassing Cochise County's election results on time for a reason that wasn't permitted under state law.
The board's refusal to approve the election results in the deep red county has threatened to disenfranchise almost 50,000 Cochise residents and overturn the victories of at least two Republican candidates - Juan Ciscomani, in the Sixth Congressional District, and Tom Horne, the next state school superintendent.
During Thursday's court hearing, Cochise County Supervisor Tom Crosby had requested a continuance so their newly-retained attorney could get caught up on the case. The continuance was denied.
>> Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article was written before the Board of Supervisors held its emergency meeting Thursday morning. <<
Two attorneys reject county
But in the last 48 hours, the County Board has been under siege.
"Is there a legal defender for county boards?" Ann English, the Democratic chairwoman of the three-person board, said with a rueful laugh during an interview Wednesday.
"The hiring of an attorney has always been left to the two people who are forcing us to hire an attorney."
The two people are Republicans Peggy Judd, who was at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, and Tom Crosby, who has stalled the certification over alleged election-related issues that have no basis in fact.
At an emergency board meeting Tuesday, Crosby and Judd voted to hire attorney Bryan Blehm, who represented the Cyber Ninjas group that ran Arizona Senate Republicans' partisan election review last year.
According to English, she was told by the county administrator that Blehm and another lawyer had rejected the job. An attorney for the plaintiffs confirmed the county had no lawyer.
The board was able to hold another last-minute meeting Thursday and voted 2-1 to retain McCauley Law Offices.
Call for criminal charges
Prominent former Arizona prosecutors have called for criminal charges against the two Republican holdouts.
"They don't get to mess with the election process under our state law. That's what's at stake here," two-term Attorney General Terry Goddard said in an interview.
"They simply don't have the running room to do whatever they want, to pick what laws they want to follow, and which ones they want to ignore. And that's an important message."
Goddard, a Democrat, was joined by longtime Republican Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley in a letter to Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, urging him to prosecute Judd and Crosby.
Through a spokeswoman, Brnovich declined to comment on the letter, according to NPR.
If the Cochise county supervisors were convicted of a felony offense for refusing to certify the vote, they would lose their right to vote.
In a New York Times interview, Judd said the certification delay was a protest over how Maricopa County's election was conducted.
Judd and Crosby's obstruction goes back at least two months, starting with a failed plan to hand count all county ballots.
"When is enough enough?" English said. "When is your statement loud enough?"
Lake is expected to contest results
Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs filed one of the lawsuits asking a judge Thursday to order the County Board to certify the Cochise election results.
On Monday, in her role as the state's chief elections officer, Hobbs is scheduled to certify the results of a midterm election that saw her win the governor's race.
Brnovich, as well as Republican Gov. Doug Ducey - both of whom were term-limited - are expected to serve as witnesses.
Under the law, the state certification can happen as late as Dec. 8.
Hobbs' opponent, Republican Kari Lake, is expected to contest the results of the governor's race within five days after certification, as state law allows.
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