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Rural counties debate prospect of hand counting election ballots

This week, more local counties explored the possibility of manually counting votes for the 2024 elections at the urging of two state legislators, a small number of officials and voters with election credibility issues. .

The Mojave County Board of Supervisors voted against promoting a manual count plan, but the Pinal County Commission is considering developing its own manual count plan.

Beyond the logistical challenges of hiring staff, maintaining confidentiality, and finding the funding to do manual counting, the legal gray area remains whether counties can get rid of tallies.

But a breakthrough may be on the horizon.

A division of the Arizona Court of Appeals is currently reviewing a motion by the Cochise County Board of Supervisors that it had the authority to extend ballot counting in the 2022 election. The office of the secretary of state is also drafting the latest election procedure manual, which is likely to include the number of candidates given the confusion since the last election.

The Mojave County Board of Supervisors met on August 1 to review a staff count plan report prepared by Election Director Allen Tempert.

The report said it took seven part-time employees and four experienced election officials three days to tally 850 votes in about 36 constituencies, or 36,000 constituencies. .

There were 46 errors during the aggregation process.

The ministry estimated that a manual tally for the 2024 general election would need to employ hundreds of staff to complete the tally in 33 to 39 days, including weekends and holidays. .

Tempert said it would be a “very, very, very, very, very tedious process” and an effort to recruit the necessary staff to work eight hours a day, seven days a week, for three weeks. will be “astronomical,” he said. He also expressed concern about the confidentiality of results as required by law.

The report found that the total cost of manually counting the three 2024 elections would be $1.1 million at launch.

Mojave County Deputy Attorney Ryan Esplin said the proposed legality of hand counting was “questionable” because the law only allowing the county to hand count ballots was not explicitly written. said the prosecutor’s office had “serious concerns”.

Esplin said a new draft of the election procedure manual is likely to provide more guidance.

“There will be an update to the Election Procedure Manual in January, and I think by that time we may have more clarity on this front as to whether counties can hand count,” Esplin said. said.

Senator Sonny Borrelli, Republican City of Lake Havasu

But Republican Senator Sonny Borrelli of Lake Havasu, speaking before the board, said Senate Concurrent Resolution 1037 “authorizes state legislatures to determine when, where, and how federal elections will be held.” rice field.

“You have legal protection,” Borrelli said.

Borrelli continues his speech before the county commission, citing SCR 1037. He sent letters to all 15 counties in May, arguing that the resolution “does not allow electronic voting systems to be administered, counted, or used as the primary method of counting in Arizona.” Or election verification. ”

But election officials and lawyers say the resolution lacks real legal authority.

Mojave County Superintendents Ron Gould and Hildy Angius voted to pass the move count bill. But Superintendent Travis Lingenfelter voted against it, citing the county’s “budget crisis,” with a deficit of about $18 million.

“Conservative Republicans are not looking to add another $1 million on top of the $18 million budget deficit,” Lingenfelter said.

He also said the election issue was primarily in Maricopa County, not the Mojave.

He also noted that Mr. Borrelli had carved out a small Maricopa County within his own legislature.

“Your strength,” said Mr. Lingenfelter. “I don’t understand why you guys are here and not down there when we’ve never had a real problem with our elections.”

Supervisors Gene Bishop and Buster Johnson also voted against the bill.

Despite Mojave County’s denial, other counties are still investigating Hand’s numbers.

At today’s meeting, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors considered moving forward with its own handout plan.

Borrelli, along with Senator Wendy Rogers (R, Flagstaff), has repeatedly claimed that the tally machines and voter registration platform were “hacked,” urging local counties to eliminate tally machines in the 2024 election. encouraged to consider.

Rogers told the director it was “a time of crisis”.

“Senator Rogers, we’re just county supervisors, what can we do?” said Rogers. “You are electors. You are at a turning point in history.”

The meeting then turned to the legality of counting ballots by hand.

rogers, hand count, ballot
Senator Wendy Rogers, Republican, Flagstaff

Mr. Rogers instructed the board to “expect” the lawsuit “because that’s the way it is.” But she told the board that Congress “will stand by you” in any legal action.

Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said, in his opinion, there is nothing in the law against handcounting. But he pointed to laws requiring election results to be printed from tally machines.

He also referred to the Cochise County case, where an appeals court is considering the legality of handcounting in general.

A draft opinion released prior to oral argument concluded that Cochise County had the right to count 100% of early votes, but not those cast on Election Day.

Volkmer expected that the final opinion “would likely not discuss machine counting,” but advised the board to be hesitant to make a final decision until the Arizona Court of Appeals issued a ruling.

Pinal County Superintendent Steven Miller then turned to the logistics of move counting, saying that the plan presented by Tempert proved to face significant logistical and financial hurdles. Stated. Borelli said Tempert “was looking for ways to fiddle with the problem and make it very complicated.”

Pinal County Superintendent Jeffrey McClure still noted that the effort would likely require a “massive” workforce.

The Board took no formal action today, but plans to develop a formal plan and discuss further steps at a future meeting.

Chairman Jeff Sardy said, “We have to wait until some things are settled in the state.” “But that’s definitely an issue we have to deal with. The question is when to put it on the agenda.”


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