After Pinal errors, 4 changes could help Arizona avoid election recounts

a vote beat survey A Pinal County elections official issued Friday documented apparent errors in the vote count before the election was approved, but did not reveal them until a recount was forced. It meant that hundreds of votes were not counted.

Following the findings, election experts and advocates say states should consider new rules and guidelines for reconfirming election results. They also recommend increasing state support for county officials tasked with running elections.

Equally important is for state and national election officials to be completely transparent about their mistakes so they don’t happen again.

“If you’ve made a mistake, you should be ready to admit it and say how it happened and won’t happen again,” said Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association. “The wrong answer is to sweep it under the rug or not report it.”

Here are four ways Arizona can ensure accurate elections.

Arizona has some rules It describes how county election officials must double-check election results, but other states have more detailed requirements that experts say can strengthen confidence in results.

for example, Colorado Election Rulesis established by the Secretary of State to have legal force and require counties to follow a checklist to verify results. The county must also publish a balanced list of voter counts and voter counts in a pre-certification results document called a canvas.

Peg Pearl, Chief Deputy Clerk of Jefferson County, Colorado, said the checklist will serve as a roadmap to help election officials make sure the results are accurate. The numbers don’t always match up exactly, Perl said — there may be as many as 12 or fewer discrepancies across the county — but she said authorities need to understand each remaining discrepancy. said he was doing his best to

“We all know it’s a human process and it’s never perfect. But it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being trustworthy and careful.”

Jennifer Morrell, founder of an election consulting firm and post-election settlement expert, said she recommended adding requirements to Arizona’s election procedure manual. Requires counties to list balanced numbers and account for discrepancies within the canvas.

The procedural manual currently requires election administrators to convene an “audit committee” to reconcile discrepancies before results are certified, but does not require this reconciliation to be made public within the canvas. not.

Melissa Hamilton, a grassroots advocate for election integrity in Arizona, believes this requirement should not only be in procedural manuals, but also in state laws that are changed through public procedures. She said the numbers would have to be released to county supervisors before they can certify the election.

“Voters need to be able to have an open process,” she said. “Candidates need to know what happened.”

Tammy Patrick, former Maricopa County elections official and co-CEO of the National Association of Elections Officials, said the procedural manual does not have enough to provide a roadmap for new election officials. details should be included.

They need to have “enough information to do the job well without a lot of experience,” Patrick said.

Once the new Secretary of State, Adrian Fontes, takes office, the secretary of state will begin revising the procedural manual, and the process is ongoing, said Office spokesperson Paul Smith Leonard.

Some criticized Arizona for not having a strong enough post-election hand count audit after 2020. has ordered Cyber ​​Ninja to review the ballots for

The law now requires counties to hand-manage all votes cast in 2% of precincts or vote centers, along with a small sample of early ballots (5,000 early ballots or 1% of early ballots, whichever is less). Mandatory to count at work. This handcount is only required if all approved political parties decide to participate and provide workers. Hand counts move forward, and if discrepancies are found, more votes are investigated.

Morrell said states should consider tightening this requirement. She said authorities need to ensure audits are looking at a statistically significant sample of ballots. Also build audit processes that are transparent and easy for voters to follow. She said there are benefits to doing so.

some states including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Virginia have begun using so-called risk limit audits to verify election results. This is a detailed process that calculates the risk of an election result being wrong and manually counts the number of votes required to prove it. The result is correct. Morrell wasn’t sure it was the right step for Arizona, but said the state should consider all options.

Hamilton agrees that audits need to be stepped up. She believes state law should require that a statistically significant number of votes be manually counted based on the number of votes cast, rather than the fixed number of votes currently required by law. increase.

“If an error exists, it will increase the public’s confidence that hand counting is sufficient to identify the error,” she said.

Morrell and Patrick wrote a detailed report On tracking votes many years ago that emphasized the importance of creating and using clear forms.

They and others agree that while much of the training of poll workers is focused on technology, training on how to properly track ballots is just as important.

Hamilton said he believes Arizona law needs to be updated to include stricter requirements for what is tracked on polling place forms, and that polling place employees will be allowed to do so until the numbers are balanced. I think I have to stay where I am.

Eight of Arizona’s 15 counties receive all ballots cast at polling places to be counted at a central location. It is important to have a form that records the exact number of ballots cast at the polling place for comparison with the tallied numbers, and to track that batch by batch when the ballots are scanned. Yes, says Patrick.

“That accounting and that adjustment should be done throughout that,” said Patrick.

The key to ensuring that all votes are counted accurately is not only a particular methodology, but also having the employees and funding to do it in time for the results to be finalized. is usually done around the same time counties are conducting handcount audits and other post-election tasks, she said.

With top election administrators resigning from posts across the country, Patrick said it was important to write down their procedures so new administrators knew what to do. At least 10 of his 15 Arizona counties have seen election commissions and record keepers resign within the last three years. In Pinal County, the county put four different officials in charge General elections in the last three years.

Fontes is asking the state legislature to add six staff members to better support the county. He said state elections officer certification training, beginning in June, “will include specific guidance to ensure problems like those that occurred in the last election don’t happen again.” ”

Many experts also say peer support is important. During training of new recruits in Colorado, experienced clerks “wrap our arms around new recruits,” Crane says. That includes spending a lot of time explaining state laws and creating mentor programs.

“It’s about building this connectivity around people,” he said. Everyone struggles in this job, but don’t be afraid to speak up. ”

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