Disputes over election certification in a handful of states are raising concerns about the presidential election

In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, two Republican members of a county commission last month refused to sign the results of an election that led to the recall of three GOP members of the county commission. They did so only after state officials warned them that it was their legal duty to record the final vote.

In Georgia’s Fulton County, which includes the Democratic-leaning city of Atlanta, a group led by members of former President Donald Trump’s administration filed a lawsuit last week to block a Republican member of the local election board from certifying the results of the primary. to approve.

And in Arizona, Republican lawmakers have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a demand by the state’s top Democratic officials that local governments automatically validate their election results.

The past four years have been filled with battles over all manner of election secrets, including one long considered an administrative afterthought: little-known state and local boards that certified the results. With the November presidential election looming, advocates are bracing for more fights over election certification, especially in swing states where margins of victory are expected to be tight. Even if these efforts ultimately fail, election officials worry they will become a tool to promote false election claims.

Trump and his allies have tried to use this tactic to prevent election results from being finalized if they lose. In 2020, two Republicans on Michigan’s State Board of Pollsters, which must certify vote totals before state officials can declare a winner, briefly declined to sign off before anyone conceded and became the tie-breaking vote. Trump had welcomed the delay as part of his effort to reverse his loss, which ultimately culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

During the 2022 midterm elections, some conservative, rural counties tried to hold up their state election results, citing the same debunked voter fraud claims as Trump.

In New Mexico, rural supervisors refused to certify the state’s primaries until threatened with prosecution. In Cochise County in southeastern Arizona, two Republican supervisors who refused to certify local vote totals said they had no doubt their own county’s count was accurate, but protested the counts in other counties that produced Democratic candidates for governor , Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs. their victories.

In response to the certification controversies, Michigan’s Democratic legislature passed a law clarifying that state and local commissions must certify election totals. The two Arizona county supervisors are currently facing criminal charges filed by the state’s Democratic attorney general.

Democrats and nonpartisan groups say the thousands of local election oversight boards across the country are not the place to challenge vote counts, and that state laws make clear they have no leeway over whether to sign off on their staff’s final votes.

“Election authorities do not have the discretion to reject the results of an election because of their atmosphere,” said Jonathan Diaz of the Campaign Legal Center, adding that lawsuits and recounts are the right solution. ‘They are there to perform a function. They are there to certify.”

But some Republicans argue this goes too far. Kory Langhofer, the attorney filing a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Arizona Election Procedures Manual directive issued by the Democratic attorney general and secretary of state, said he would reject the effort to have Cochise County certified in 2022 blocking was not supported. But he argued: Locally elected boards of supervisors should have some discretion in overseeing elections.

“It seems to me that the system is stronger if you focus more than one eye on it,” says Langhofer. Of the efforts to block certification in 2020 and 2022, he added: “I hope this is behind us.”

Democrats doubt this is the case. They note that the America First Policy Institute, a pro-Trump organization led by former officials of his administration, filed the lawsuit in Georgia seeking to have Fulton County Elections Board member Julie Adams vote against certifying elections . Adams’ four other board members voted to approve last month’s primary, but Adams abstained last week, arguing she could not accept the results given previous problems with the county’s election administration.

“This action will restore the board members’ role as the ultimate parties responsible for ensuring that Fulton County elections are free from fraud, deception and abuse,” the institute wrote in its press release announcing the lawsuit. The group did not respond to a request for comment.

Fulton County is the heart of the Democratic vote in Georgia, and anything that keeps the November totals steady could make it look like Trump has a big lead in the state.

“Trump and MAGA Republicans have made clear that they intend to try to block the certification of the November elections if they are defeated again, and this is a transparent effort to clear the way for that fight,” Chairman and Rep. of the Georgia Democratic Party, Nikema Williams. said in a statement.

In Michigan’s Delta County, Clerk Nancy Przewrocki, a Republican, said the two Republicans had requested a manual recount of votes, which is beyond the scope of their position. The candidates ultimately voted to certify the May election after receiving a letter from state elections director Jonathan Brater reminding them of their duties and warning them of the consequences of failing to certify.

Still, Przewrocki said she is concerned about what could happen in November if a similar situation arises.

“Unfortunately, I see this escalating. I’m trying to give our voters confidence in our voting equipment, and this completely undermines it when there really is none,” Przewrocki said.

Following the incident in Delta County, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel, both Democrats, sent a reminder to local investigative committees across the state, warning them of their legal obligation to review election results based solely on voting results to certify. If they don’t, “swift action will be taken to ensure the legal certification of the election results,” along with “possible civil and criminal charges against those members for their actions,” Benson warned.

Michigan is an example of the futility of this tactic. The new state law makes clear that canvassing boards cannot block certification, but Benson said in an interview that she still worries that such an effort, even if legally doomed, would help spread false accusations about the November election.

“Misinformation and talking points emerge that allow others – especially politicians – to continue to cast doubt on the accuracy of the election results,” she said.


Riccardi reported from Denver and Cappelletti from Lansing, Michigan. Associated Press writers Jeff Amy in Atlanta and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this report.

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