Arizona Senate’s plan for counting 2.1M ballots impossible and biased, election consultants say

Full hand counts such as the one proposed here have taken other states months and cost millions of dollars./dreamstime photo

By Jen Fifield, Andrew Oxford | Arizona Republic

Lacking transparency, partisan and probably not possible.

That’s how several election audit consultants from across the country describe the Arizona Senate’s plan for recounting the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County in November.

The plan released last week does not give the Senate’s contractors enough time or money to do the audit properly, and the lack of detailed, monitored and secure procedures could lead to miscounted or mishandled ballots — purposefully or not, according to four nonpartisan election consultants with experience performing or reviewing audits.

“I don’t think there is any good end to this,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser of elections at Democracy Fund, who previously worked for Maricopa County Elections Department.

Full hand counts such as the one proposed here have taken other states months and cost millions of dollars. Georgia did its hand count of about 5 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election in less than a week, but that involved dozens to hundreds of workers in each of the state’s 159 counties, according to the Associated Press.

Arizona’s audit is slated to cost $150,000 and to be done in 60 days. Auditors have been given 20 days to do the hand count and plan to use 120 people at a time. The full audit includes not just the hand count but an analysis of voter information and an audit of the county’s voting technology.

Patrick and others say a lack of transparency in the audit will make its integrity hard to judge. The proposed statement of work doesn’t say whether anyone will be allowed to observe the process in person, and there’s no indication that the boards set up to count ballots will be bipartisan — a standard procedure for hand counts.

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