Ducey signs ‘electronic adjudication’ bill to speed ballot counting




The first new law of 2020 will allow Maricopa County to more quickly resolve errors in the 2020 election.

Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday signed Senate Bill 1135, which allows county elections officials to use a process called “electronic adjudication” to identify ballots that can’t be read by standard vote-counting machines.

The measure easily cleared the legislature, passing both the House of Representatives and Senate unanimously in late January.

Because it contains an emergency clause, it goes into effect immediately.

The legislation was needed so that Maricopa County can use its new electronic adjudication machines.

Prior to SB1135, if a ballot couldn’t be fully read by the vote-counting machines – often times because a single vote mark was smudged – elections officials were required by state law to fully duplicate that ballot. In statewide elections, that means a new ballot including every federal, statewide, local and judicial race would have to be meticulously copied to a new ballot, which was then re-scanned by the tabulation equipment.

But by using electronic adjudication machines, the error on a ballot could be singled out. With the new provisions that Ducey signed into law, Maricopa County can now skip duplicating the full ballot and instead input the voter’s choice on the question that caused the error – if it’s clear how the voter intended to vote.

In December, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates told KJZZ that the new machines would cut the time of resolving errors from 12 minutes per ballot to less than 1 minute per ballot.

Because the bill goes into effect immediately, it will allow Maricopa County to use the new machines for the March 17 presidential preference election.

Jim Small
Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.