As Mohave County pursues a plan to hand-count all 2024 ballots, Secretary of State steps in

 A volunteer observer (right, dressed in orange) watches as Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors hired by the Arizona senate at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Ariz. on April 27, 2021. || Photo by Rob Schumacher | Arizona Republic/pool



A day after supervisors in a northwestern Arizona county voted to request a plan to hand-count ballots in the 2024 presidential election, Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes sent a letter to Mohave County supervisors on Tuesday telling them he is concerned that moving forward would break state and federal laws, potentially be insecure, and would lead to inaccurate results.

“Hand counting ballots is incredibly prone to human error, which results in a time-intensive process to arrive at correct, final results,” Fontes, a Democrat, wrote. “However, even assuming correct and final results, state law does not allow county boards … to unilaterally substitute a hand count for certified and tested electronic tabulation equipment.”

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

The vote Monday by Republican supervisors was nearly unanimous, with one supervisor, Jean Bishop, voting no. It ordered the county’s elections director to come up with a plan to count all votes on ballots cast in the upcoming presidential election by hand.

In a statement to Votebeat shortly after he sent the letter to the supervisors, Fontes wrote that he’s concerned “any plan to initiate a full hand count of ballots for a future election would put [county election] officials in serious legal jeopardy, including possible criminal liability, for violations of state law.”

“I urge any county official to consider the negative consequences to election systems, voters and taxpayers that would result from the introduction of election procedures which are untested and have no legal basis,” he wrote.

In response, Supervisors Chairman Travis Lingenfelter wrote to Fontes that it was an “interesting letter and duly noted.”


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June 2023