Arizona would likely see recounts after every election under popular bill

In Maricopa County, millions of ballots would be recounted every election

BY: JEN FIFIELD/VOTEBEAT 

Update May 17, 3 p.m.:The Arizona House voted 50-1-9 this afternoon to pass the bill. It now awaits Gov. Doug Ducey’s signature beforebecoming law.

Arizona’s largest county, Maricopa, would likely be required to recount all ballots cast in every election moving forward if a proposed change to state law passes.

This article was originally published by Votebeat, a nonprofit news organization covering local election administration and voting.

The bill, awaiting a final vote as early as today in the Arizona Legislature after garnering bipartisan support, would vastly widen the margin of votes between candidates that triggers an automatic recount in primary and general elections, for almost every type of race. The change would prompt more frequent recounts in large and small counties alike. In the 2020 general election, it would have triggered two statewide recounts and two countywide recounts in Maricopa County, including the presidential race which Joe Biden won narrowly in the state.

The stated goal is to build voter confidence in election outcomes in a battleground state where margins are often tight and recounts are currently rarely allowed. State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who introduced Senate Bill 1008, says it would still only require recounts on races that are very close.

“Here is an opportunity to help reinforce the process,” Ugenti-Rita said. “To give the voters confidence that, when races are razor tight, we make sure they were counted accurately.”

But national election consultants with expertise in recounts, along with associations representing officials in Arizona counties, warn the proposal may lead to a burdensome number of recounts, add to election costs, delay election results, and make it difficult to meet deadlines between the primary and general elections. They argue that those are heavy tradeoffs considering that recounts almost never change the outcome of elections.

“The bill will increase costs to run elections because counties will be required to hire additional employees, it will create additional wear and tear on machines, and increased potential for delays in canvassing results,” Robin Hillyard of the County Supervisors Association of Arizona wrote to House Minority Leader Rep. Reginald Bolding in March, urging him to vote no on the bill in committee. Both that association and the Arizona Association of Counties oppose the bill. Bolding voted yes.

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