Hand-count audits find no problems with Arizona ballot tabulators

By Jim Small || Arizona Mirror

Hand-count audits of the November election results in 12 Arizona counties found no problems with electronic ballot tabulators, but three counties didn’t conduct the post-election audits required by law.

State law calls for counties to perform a partial hand count of ballots after each election. Representatives of each recognized political party in the county randomly select which precincts or vote centers are subjected to the hand counts, as well as which races shall be included.

Those county parties must inform election officials of who will participate in the hand count no later than the Tuesday before Election Day. And because no more than 75% of the participants can be from the same party, at least two political parties must participate. 

That didn’t happen this year in the three counties that didn’t conduct the post-election audits following the November election: Apache, Graham and La Paz.

In La Paz County, the Republicans failed to designate a representative, Elections Director Bob Bartelsmeyer wrote in a letter to the Secretary of State’s Office. In Graham County, Elections Director Hannah Duderstadt wrote that neither political party participated.

It’s less clear what happened in Apache. Elections Director Angela Romero wrote that one of the political parties did not supply a representative, but didn’t identify which party. Emails and a phone message left for Romero seeking clarification went unanswered. 

All three of those counties also failed to do the audits for the August primary election. In Apache and Graham counties, neither political party supplied a representative, while Democrats didn’t participate in La Paz County.

After the primary election, Greenlee and Santa Cruz counties also didn’t have the required participation to conduct the audits. In Greenlee, neither party submitted representatives. The parties in Santa Cruz submitted names, but at least one of the party representatives failed to show up for the audit, so it was canceled. 

The post-election audits are designed to ensure that ballot tabulators are accurately counting ballots that were cast during the election. The members of the political parties serve as independent witnesses to the results. 

In addition to the audits, political party representatives also participate in pre- and post-election logic and accuracy tests in which sample ballots are tabulated and the results are checked for accuracy.

Hand-counts of elections have become a rallying cry for some on the right, particularly among those who believe the conspiracy theory that electronic ballot tabulators used in every Arizona county are part of a scheme to ensure Republicans lose.

In Cochise County this year, far-right activists persuaded county leaders to pursue a full hand-count of the November election. But a judge ruled that the state law allowing for the post-election audits, which Republican county officials said justified their move, doesn’t allow counties to hand-count every ballot.

State law mandates that counties hand-count at least 2% of ballots cast in-person at polling places, and of 1% of all early ballots.

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