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Arizona is set to finally make its election results official today

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Arizona certifies its midterm election results today.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

They plan to affirm the vote of the people despite an effort to stop it. Republican officials in a rural county have refused to certify their local results by the legal deadline. The move set off multiple lawsuits and was the most dramatic effort this year to reject a democratic election.

INSKEEP: NPR's Hansi Lo Wang joins us to talk about this. Good morning.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What exactly happens today in Arizona?

WANG: The state's top election official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, is expected to meet with Arizona's governor, attorney general and the chief justice of the state supreme court, as required by state law, to certify every county's election results and declare them official. And if that sounds mundane, it usually is. It's a ceremonial step that usually doesn't get much attention. But it is different this time because of what happened in this county in the southeastern corner of Arizona near Tucson. It's called Cochise County.

INSKEEP: What happened there?

WANG: You know, there were no legitimate problems found in the county's election results. But Republicans on the county's board of supervisors delayed certifying them and missed the legal deadline. And so a state judge ordered the board late last week to do its job under law and certify and, you know, just so that more than 47,000 people's votes would not be left out of Arizona's official midterm election results.

INSKEEP: OK. Ultimately, they were forced to do that. Now the process goes ahead, as required by law. But will there be any consequences for the Republican county officials who tried to block it?

WANG: That's a big, looming question right now. The secretary of state's office has asked for an investigation by Arizona's attorney general and the Cochise County attorney because these Republican officials almost disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters in their own county. You know, I talked to former Arizona attorney general, Terry Goddard, who's a Democrat. Goddard joined a former Maricopa County attorney, who's a Republican. And they have been calling for an investigation because they say these Republican officials likely broke at least three criminal laws by willfully refusing to do their legal duty to certify these election results. And Goddard told me that, you know, even though the county ended up certifying the results late, these Republicans, he said, should be held accountable for missing the deadline.

TERRY GODDARD: It's like giving the money back after committing armed robbery. You still committed the crime even if the money gets returned to the victim. And I think that's very much the case here.

WANG: Now, I should point out that many election watchers around the country are watching this case in Arizona very closely because there's a fear that if these Republicans are not held accountable, it could encourage election deniers in other parts of the country to try to delay or stop the certification process for future elections, including in 2024.

INSKEEP: OK. So Arizona's set for the moment. Katie Hobbs, the Democrat who is secretary of state you mentioned, becomes governor. Mark Kelly keeps his job as senator. A lot of other officials win their elections, Republicans as well as Democrats. That's set. And now we're at the far end of an election season where people feared there'd be a lot of disputes over elections, a lot of lawsuits, a lot of rejected results. How bad was it, ultimately?

WANG: Not as bad, not as widespread as some election watchers had anticipated. So far, the controversy over certifying election results has mainly been in Arizona. There was another election certification delay I was tracking in Pennsylvania's Luzerne County. They ultimately certified two days late after Republicans there voted against certifying by the deadline. And the board deadlocked along party lines because - when the Democrats decided not to vote initially. But, again, for the most part, making the midterm election results official, this has gone relatively smoothly.

INSKEEP: Hansi, always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

WANG: You're very welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Hansi Lo Wang. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hansi Lo Wang (he/him) is a national correspondent for NPR reporting on the people, power and money behind the U.S. census.