MOHAVE COUNTY – Ballot counting and Chairman choice were points of contention during Monday’s Mohave County board of supervisors meeting. The board again turned thumbs down on hand counting ballots and elected supervisor Hildy Angius as chairman for next year.
Board of Supervisors Clerk Ginny Anderson was asked to read into the record a lengthy letter from Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes before the ballot tabulation debate that stretched more than two hours. Mayes advised supervisors it would be illegal to count ballots by hand in the 2024 elections.
“A ‘yes’ vote would direct your elections department to violate the law. As Arizona’s chief law enforcement officer, I have an obligation to warn you that the legal consequences would be serious,” Mayes letter said. “The board should not direct the elections department to act illegally. If it does, we will promptly sue and obtain a court order. The court may also hold members of the board who voted for an illegal action liable for their misconduct.”
State Senator Sonny Borrelli said that Mayes is wrong and that a lawyer sponsored by an unidentified donor would defend the county and would prevail. Supervisor Buster Johnson expressed doubt, noting the lawyer is a Scottsdale divorce attorney without election expertise.
While a number of audience members sided with Borrelli, deputy Mohave County attorney Ryan Esplin further cautioned the board.
“I am more persuaded by the arguments that the Attorney General is making than I am with some of the counter arguments that I’ve seen,” Esplin said. “I am of the opinion that you have an uphill battle to win in court on the hand count argument. I wouldn’t take that chance, so I recommend that you vote against it.”
Supervisors Angius and Ron Gould voted for the hand count while board members Buster Johnson and Jean Bishop opposed Gould’s motion. Chairman Travis Lingenfelter paused in contemplation and broke the tie by voting down the hand count.
Lingenfelter also broke a split vote on naming a new board chairman after Bishop volunteered. She noted she is the only supervisor not running for office next year.
“I would be happy to serve as the chairman so that we can have sort of a non political chairman,” Bishop said.
Angius countered that a rotation system generally followed by the board puts her in line to Chair the Board next year.
“It’s my turn if we do this rotation correctly,” Angius said. “How I look at it is that you always want somebody who has accountability in that seat. If you’re not running for anything, your decision making may be different. So, I think we should keep the rotation going and I would be happy to be the chairman.”
Johnson and Bishop were in the minority as the rest of the board voted for Angius to serve as the next Chairman.