Votebeat is a nonprofit news organization reporting on voting access and election administration across the U.S. Dig deeper into how our democracy works with Votebeat’s free newsletters at votebeat.org/newsletters.
An Arizona county that refused to certify the 2022 election has hired a new elections director who repeatedly spread false claims about widespread election fraud.
The Cochise County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 2-1 to hire Bob Bartelsmeyer, La Paz County’s elections director for the past year, to run the county’s elections, after he was chosen by Republican Recorder David Stevens. Republican Supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd voted yes and Democrat Ann English voted no.
Election officials across the state are resigning in part because of harassment linked to election misinformation. But the Republican supervisors indicated they weren’t concerned that Bartelsmeyer had repeatedly shared posts on Facebook baselessly saying that the 2020 election was rigged against Donald Trump, as Votebeat first reported on Monday.
The half-dozen county residents who spoke at the meeting Tuesday said they were opposed to hiring him. Nearly all of them said they were concerned about Bartelsmeyer’s Facebook posts because they want their elections director to increase faith in the county’s elections, not make the situation worse. Two specifically said their concerns stemmed from the posts that were first reported by Votebeat on Monday.
“Think about it. Our elections director would be responsible for upholding Cochise County’s election integrity when he has maligned the integrity of hundreds, if not thousands, of election directors across the nation who assured their voters that they had correctly counted the votes of their voters,” said Jeff Sturges, a Sierra Vista resident.
Stevens selected Bartelsmeyer after the supervisors gave Stevens more control over the county’s elections in February. In Arizona, state law typically separates election duties between an elections director who oversees Election Day and ballot counting, and a recorder who oversees early voting.
The county’s prior elections director, Lisa Marra, resigned shortly before that, claiming that she was maligned and harassed when she refused to move forward with the supervisors’ plan to illegally hand count all ballots cast in the November election. A judge had to force the supervisors to certify the county’s election after they said they had concerns with the security of ballot tabulation machines.
Bartelsmeyer has decades of experience administering elections. Prior to his hiring a year ago in La Paz — a rural county in western Arizona — Bartelsmeyer said he ran or worked in elections in Mohave County and counties in Missouri, Florida, and New Mexico.
Asked to speak at the meeting Tuesday, Bartelsmeyer emphasized his experience as a rebuttal to a few residents who had said they didn’t believe he wasn’t experienced enough for the job.
“I have over 30 years of experience,” he said. “Can you tell me who has more experience? I doubt you can find one.”
Stevens said that two other people applied for the job but neither had any experience as an elections director.
On Bartelsmeyer’s job application, when asked if Cochise County could contact his most recent employers in La Paz County; Doña Ana County, New Mexico; and Palm Beach County, Florida, Bartelsmeyer said no. English and multiple residents pointed this out at the meeting.
“Did it not send up any red flags that this person did not want you to contact any former employers?” English said.
Stevens said it didn’t raise red flags for him because he, too, has exercised that option on job applications. “It never crossed my mind that something was wrong,” he said.
Bartelsmeyer did not address this when he spoke, other than telling the supervisors they should ask La Paz County about his time there. “You will understand and find out that I was the most transparent elections director, and I have high marks from the county administrator who supervised me, all three board members of the supervisors, the county attorney and also the clerk of the board.”
He emphasized that he was not in an elections director position from 2016 to 2021, a period that includes the times he posted political opinions about the 2020 election on his personal Facebook page. But his page shows that he has posted his political opinions since then, and since being hired by La Paz County.
He said he wants transparency and integrity in elections.
“I want things right,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I will spell it out to you. I want to be honest and fair in every election.”
Jen Fifield is a reporter for Votebeat based in Arizona. Contact Jen at email@example.com.