Arizona county’s new elections head shared voter fraud memes

Apr 25, 2023, 3:39 PM

FILE - Members of the public attend Cochise County Board of Supervisors meeting to provide feedback...

FILE - Members of the public attend Cochise County Board of Supervisors meeting to provide feedback on the proposed transfer of election functions and duties to the county recorder on Feb. 14, 2023, in Bisbee, Ariz. Cochise County, where leaders have embraced voting machine conspiracies, voted Tuesday, April 25, 2023, to hired an elections director who has promoted the false claims that fraud cost former President Donald Trump's re-election in 2020. (AP Photo/Alberto Mariani, File)

(AP Photo/Alberto Mariani, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — A rural Arizona county where leaders have embraced voting machine conspiracies on Tuesday hired an elections director who has promoted the false claims that voter fraud cost former President Donald Trump reelection in 2020.

The two Republicans on the three-member Cochise County Board of Supervisors voted to hire Bob Bartelsmeyer, who shared memes on his personal Facebook page supporting Trump’s claims of fraud and promoting the lie that Dominion voting machines manipulated the outcome.

Fox News last week agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems nearly $800 million to bogus voting machine claims after the 2020 election.

The hiring of Bartelsmeyer is the latest controversial decision by the conservative majority in the southeastern Arizona county of 125,000 people, which voted for Trump over Joe Biden in 2020 by nearly 20 percentage points. The two Republicans on the board, Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, tried to have the ballots hand-counted in last year’s midterm election, which a judge said was illegal. They then refused to certify the election results, forcing a judge to step in again.

Bartelsmeyer, who was previously the elections director in the smaller Arizona county, replaces Lisa Marra, a respected elections director before she recently resigned from the nonpartisan position after five years. Marra had refused to conduct the hand count because it was illegal.

After Marra quit, the Republicans on the board voted to give her duties to Recorder David Stevens, an elected Republican, prompting a lawsuit from the attorney general.

Stevens said Bartelsmeyer was the only person among three applicants with experience running elections.

Arizona, a presidential swing state where 11 electoral votes and a U.S. Senate seat could be decided by a fraction of a percentage point, has been at the center of election conspiracies since 2020. Trump and his allies focused many of their efforts to overturn his loss on Arizona. A continuing to fight her loss in last year’s race for governor in the court system.

Bartelsmeyer has served for the past year as the elections director and deputy clerk in La Paz County on Arizona’s western border. The job is preceded by an unexplained 12-year gap on his resume. Before that, his resume shows he bounced between elections jobs in Arizona, New Mexico and Florida, and was the elected clerk in Lawrence County, Missouri, for 23 years.

He posted prolifically on his Facebook page about conspiracies in the months after Trump’s loss, sharing memes and writeups of his lawyers’ longshot legal claims. Some were marked as misleading by Facebook.

“Please join me by posting: ‘Trump legally won by a landslide,’” said one post he shared on Dec. 20, 2020.

“We must demand election integrity and transparency in the 2020 election for America to survive as a democracy and for the America we know and love!!” Bartelsmeyer wrote on Dec. 6, 2020.

He said he was not working in elections at the time.

“As a private citizen between 2016 and 2021, I am at the liberty to express my opinion,” he told the board.

no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Bartelsmeyer defended his qualifications, citing three decades of experience working in elections and saying he wants transparency and integrity. He said he supports using machines to count votes but wants confirmation that they’re accurate.

“I’m not against machines,” Bartelsmeyer said. “I am for machines. I think they are 99.9% accurate. But I do want a hand count to compare to the machine count to make sure that all is correct.”

Ann English, the board’s lone Democrat, said she didn’t know about plans to hire Bartelsmeyer until the decision showed up on the meeting agenda. She asked Stevens if he thought the Facebook posts were concerning and whether it was a “red flag” that Bartelsmeyer’s application requested that several of his prior employers not be contacted.

The county’s plans to hire Bartelsmeyer and his online posts were first reported by Votebeat. A half dozen Cochise County residents urged the board not to hire Bartelsmeyer.

“Vote no on hiring this election denying nut job,” Jeff Sturges of Sierra Vista, the county’s largest city, urged the board before Bartelsmeyer was approved.

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Arizona county’s new elections head shared voter fraud memes