Recount done for 2.1 million ballots in audit of Maricopa County election
PHOENIX — The hand recount of 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 Maricopa County election has been completed, an Arizona Senate spokesman said Monday.
Three boxes of Braille ballots — about 50 to 60 in total — were left to be counted along with large-type, overseas military and duplicated ballots but all others had gone through the process, which began April 23.
Ken Bennett, state Senate audit liaison, has said the end of the hand count wouldn’t immediately signal a final audit report.
Resources have been shifting to a paper examination of mail ballot envelopes for signatures as counting has come to a finish.
Bennett said that process is to address questions such as “Are there folds in the 1.9 million ballots that came in and out by mail? Are alignment marks on the fronts and the backs of the ballot aligning as authentic ballots should? Is there a depression in the oval where a human hand-held device would have filled in that oval as opposed to an inkjet printer or a Xerox machine or whatever you might think?”
Other parts of the audit still to come could potentially include a second tabulation of scanned images, but Bennett or others haven’t provided details about what that might entail if it happens.
State Senate Republican leaders who ordered the audit hired Bennett, a former Arizona secretary of state, as their representative during the process. The only races being recounted are president and U.S. senator, seats Democrats narrowly won in the county and state.
The operations paused May 14 because of high school graduation ceremonies previously booked at the Coliseum and resumed 10 days later. Under a second lease deal, the building is available to the auditors through the end of June.
Maricopa County previously authorized two audits of its November 2020 general election by independent contractors who are certified by the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.
Those audits found no problems with the count, but state Senate Republicans subpoenaed the county for access to its ballots and voting equipment at the urging of supporters of Donald Trump who refuse to accept President Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Arizona.
After winning a legal fight to enforce the subpoena, Senate President Karen Fann hired several vendors, with Florida-based Cyber Ninjas as the lead contractor, to examine the ballots, machines and voting systems.
Fann’s selection of Cyber Ninjas’ $150,000 bid quickly drew scrutiny over founder Doug Logan’s deleted Twitter account, which had activity supporting unfounded election conspiracy theories.
Questions have since arisen about the sources of funds being raised in the name of the audit as well as unorthodox methods of inspecting ballots.
Maricopa County officials, most of whom are Republicans, have defended the integrity of their election operations and questioned the auditors’ competence, methods and intentions.
Fann has said the aim of the audit is to restore faith in the election system and find ways to improve Arizona’s voting laws, not to reverse the result of the election.
Bennett wouldn’t speculate about what changes might be made in response to the audit.
“Until a complete, comprehensive report is issued, we would not be able to entertain recommendations of what can Arizona do better,” he said last Tuesday.
The Associated Press and KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore and Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.