Republicans reject perfect election accuracy testing, demand hand recount of Biden’s win

By: - November 19, 2020 8:32 am

Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, speaks to reporters and Trump supporters outside the Maricopa County Elections Department in Phoenix on Nov. 18, 2020. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

As representatives from Maricopa County political parties observed the standard post-election accuracy test on Wednesday, Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward doubled down on calls for a complete hand count of the nearly 2.1 million votes cast in the county in a continued attempt by Republican officials to reverse President Donald Trump’s loss in Arizona.   

“I believe, I still do now, just as I did on election night, that this election will ultimately be decided in favor of President Donald J. Trump,” Ward said in a video Wednesday morning. “Our 11 electoral votes will go to him.”

President-elect Joe Biden defeated Trump by 45,109 votes in Maricopa County and by a little more than 10,000 votes statewide.

Ward spent the day with representatives from the Democratic and Libertarian parties doing the logic and accuracy test of voting machines at the Maricopa County Elections Department. The test, which is required by state law, is conducted before and after every election to ensure no changes were made to any voting software to alter how ballots are counted. It’s the final step to verify the election results before they are sent for an official canvass to the County Board of Supervisors.

The test was certified in the evening.

Hours earlier, during a brief press conference at which she took no questions from the assembled press, Ward affirmed the voting machines “are very accurate.” But she said there are unanswered questions on minor glitches that took place on Election Day and she wants clarification on who has access to voting equipment and its software programming.

She said the hand count audit that was conducted in Maricopa County that found 100% accuracy was insufficient. 

“I think it behooves everyone to count more to prove that these elections are accurate and can be verified,” Ward said

The state GOP sued Maricopa County challenging that post-election audit. During a hearing on Wednesday afternoon, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge indicated he is leaning towards dismissing the lawsuit.

Ward also questioned the ballots that were processed through new electronic adjudication systems. That equipment identifies ballots that can’t be read by standard vote-counting machines, oftentimes because a single vote mark was smudged. Other ballots that head to adjudication include those that include a write-in candidate or have too many votes in one race — for instance, if someone made marks for two presidential candidates. 

Those ballots are reviewed by a two-member board, made up of a Republican and a Democrat, to determine how the vote will be counted.

Ward claimed there were more than 100,000 ballots adjudicated through that process, though it was unclear if she meant statewide or only in Maricopa County. In Maricopa County, there were a total of 18,419 write-in, undervotes, and overvotes, according to unofficial results

Without providing proof, Ward said ballots processed through electronic adjudication systems could be “questionable.”

“We gotta get to the bottom of it,” she said. 

Maricopa County uses an electronic adjudication system because of a Republican-sponsored law, which Gov. Doug Ducey signed in February, to speed up ballot counting. 

“Electronic adjudication is a significant improvement over the prior process, which required manual duplication of the entire ballot if there was a single contest that needed to be reviewed,” said Megan Gilbertson, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Elections Department. “It also allows the originally hard copy of the ballot to be immediately secured, rather than handled again after tabulation.”

In a press statement, Steve Slugocki, chair of the Maricopa County Democratic Party, said Ward and the state GOP are “politicizing American democracy and undermining our elections.”

“They are refusing to accept the results of this election — which they know are legitimate,” Slugocki said. “All previous Maricopa County Elections Department logic and accuracy testing (pre-election, hand audit, and post-election) have determined our election results to be 100% accurate. These audits indicate Maricopa County’s voters can be confident in our democracy moving forward.”

As she spoke, three representatives of the Maricopa County Republicans paced behind a fence, trying to get the attention of journalists. 

Jannell Soyster Buchhold, a member of the county party’s executive team, handed out press releases after Ward finished speaking. 

In the press statement, county GOP Chair Linda Brickman said she refused to sign off and certify the L&A test on Wednesday over widely debunked concerns about the Dominion Voting System machines the county uses.

“I believe it is premature for any certification until the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) addresses … all these reported irregularities and documented concerts over the Dominion Voting System,” she said. 

Maricopa County vendor Dominion Voting Systems at center of false conspiracies

Brickman went further than Ward in her requests, calling for interviewing all county election department staff about irregularities with the tabulation process, an audit to determine “legal votes” and a hand count of all ballots. 

“Using hundreds of lawyers and investigators from both the County Attorney and Attorney General’s offices … is the only way for the (board of supervisors) to restore the integrity of the election voting process and the legitimate, legal votes cast by citizens of Maricopa County,” Brickman said in the written statement. 

In a letter published Tuesday, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chair Clint Hickman said “evidence overwhelmingly shows the system used in Maricopa County is accurate and provided voters with a reliable election.”

“Board members listened to and considered many theories about the election results. We asked, and continue to ask, critical questions of County staff and none of these theories have proven true or raised the possibility the outcome of the election would be different,” Hickman said. “It is time to dial back the rhetoric, rumors, and false claims.”

Arizona law does allow for a hand recount under certain thresholds, but they are rare.

State law requires counties to canvass their elections by Nov. 23.

Still, Republican elected officials, including state Reps. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, and Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, are demanding a hand count. 

Scottsdale resident Bill, who preferred to withhold his last name from publication due to concerns of being targeted for his opinions on the election, supports a hand recount as well. He stood on Wednesday morning outside the county elections building, where hundreds of Trump supporters, including conspiracy theorists, have gathered to protest what they perceive as election fraud. 

He played a drum and chanted, “Audit the vote!” “What are you hiding?” and “Stop the steal!”

Bill said he believes a “multi-channel corruption” scheme took place in Arizona to “manipulate the count.” While the voting infrastructure and procedures in Arizona haven’t changed in recent elections, he believes the 2020 General Election was targeted by bad actors. 

“Criminals rob the bank when the money is there. The stakes weren’t there (before),” he said. 

He said the demands of the Republicans and Trump supporters who have gathered for two tweeks to protest election outcomes were reasonable. 

“People are not demanding crazy stuff,” he said. “One of the most important things is to restore confidence in the system through a thorough hand count with very involved bipartisan observers. It may take a bit of time, but the unity that results will be well worth it.”

Republicans also demanded a hand recount in Georgia, which was completed late Wednesday and the results of which will be made public Thursday. However, it hasn’t produced unity: Although Trump gained votes on Biden in that state, Biden is still expected to be the victor.

Trump on Wednesday tweeted that the recount was “a joke,” and Republicans derided it, continuing to insist that Trump only lost because of fraud.

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