Votes are counted by staff at the Maricopa County Elections Department office on Nov. 5, 2020. Photo by Courtney Pedroza | Getty Images
The Arizona House of Representatives on Monday passed a Republican-backed bill that would allow hand count of ballots, but it will almost assuredly meet with Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’ veto stamp.
The House voted 31-29 along party lines to approve House Bill 2722, which would allow any county in the state to perform a hand-count of ballots in an election, in place of an electronic count. The Senate approved the bill 16-12, also along party lines, on May 15. The bill next goes to Hobbs.
Republicans on the House and Senate elections committees have repeatedly advocated for hand counts this year, claiming without proof that the state’s voting machines are vulnerable to hacking and sabotage.
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“House Bill 2722 is, frankly, an unhinged idea that undermines our shared values,” Democratic Rep. Oscar De Los Santos, of Laveen, told the House on Monday.
With Arizona’s lengthy ballots, often containing dozens of races, and millions of people voting across the state, hand counts are just not practical, De Los Santos said. He pointed to the failed Cyber Ninjas audit of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County as proof that hand counts do not work.
The Arizona Republic recently published a story outlining just how poorly that hand count went, including private texts from Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan saying that a lot of the numbers didn’t make any sense and that the firm had no way to determine a total from hand-written vote tallies.
“Attempting to bring this irresponsible, inaccurate, unreliable and utterly broken election system to Arizona amounts to nothing short of an attack on our democracy and on fair, impartial and accurate elections,” De Los Santos said.
But Republican Rep. Alex Kolodin, a Scottsdale lawyer who has represented the Arizona Republican Party, disagreed, saying that HB2722 only clarified already existing law.
“No law requires county recorders to do a machine count in the first place,” Kolodin said.
He added that he believes voters should have the right to elect county officials that promise hand counts, if that’s what the electorate believes is best.
The courts do not necessarily agree with Kolodin’s take. Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley in fall 2022 ruled that the Cochise County Board of Supervisors had no authority to expand its standard hand count audit of the 2022 general election to a full hand count, but that ruling is currently being appealed.
In a recent letter to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, which seems to be planning for a possible hand count in the 2024 presidential election, Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes wrote that “state law does not allow county boards, which are specifically granted limited authority to canvass election results, to unilaterally substitute a hand count for certified and tested electronic tabulation equipment.”
Fontes also pointed out that a hand count could put the county at odds with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, which required upgrades to voting equipment and election administration.
In the letter, Fontes added that hand counts are notoriously time consuming and inaccurate, compared with machine tallies.
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