Most candidates for top election posts say no to hand counts

Nov 1, 2022, 9:09 AM | Updated: 10:02 am
FILE - Esmeralda County Commissioner Ralph Keyes, center, works on a hand recount of votes with oth...

FILE - Esmeralda County Commissioner Ralph Keyes, center, works on a hand recount of votes with others, June 24, 2022, in Goldfield, Nev. An AP survey shows the majority of candidates running this year for the state posts that oversee elections oppose the idea of hand counting ballots, a laborious and error-prone process that has gained favor among Republicans who have been inundated with unfounded voting machine conspiracy theories. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

The vast majority of candidates running to become their states’ chief election officers oppose hand counting ballots, a laborious and error-prone process that has gained favor among some Republicans embracing conspiracy theories about voting machines.

An Associated Press survey of major party secretary of state candidates in the 24 states found broad skepticism about hand counting among election professionals of all ideological stripes. Of 23 Republicans who responded to the survey, 13 clearly said they opposed implementing a statewide hand count of ballots instead of a machine count.

GOP candidates in Arizona and New Mexico have previously endorsed the idea of a hand count. But others cautioned it was a dangerous road to follow.

“Hand counting ballots is a process that requires time, manpower, and is prone to inaccuracies,” Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, a Republican who is seeking re-election this year, wrote in response to the AP survey.

The desire to hand count ballots stems from conspiracy theories spread by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the electronic machines that tabulated the results of the 2020 presidential election were rigged. Now some Republicans inspired by his election lies seek to expand or require hand counting of all ballots.

Counting by hand takes longer, requires large groups of people to examine ballots, and has been found by multiple studies to be less reliable than using voting machines.

“The reason the U.S. moved to counting machines is due to both human error and fraud with hand counts, so we looked for a better way to count the vote,” said Kim Crockett, the Republican nominee for secretary of state in Minnesota, in an email. “The error rate for hand counts is higher than the error rate for ballot counters in most cases.”

Crockett, who has called the 2020 election “rigged” and echoed some of Trump’s other election falsehoods, also stressed that she thinks her state’s voting machines still need further inspection.

The process came under scrutiny last week when rural Nye County in Nevada embarked on an unprecedented full hand count of this year’s midterm votes, starting with mailed ballots and those cast early in-person. The process was painstakingly slow until it was halted by the state’s supreme court over concerns that early vote tallies could be leaked publicly.

While the AP survey found most candidates strongly favor machine tabulators, two GOP secretary of state candidates in politically pivotal states — Arizona and New Mexico — want to shift to the unreliable method of counting ballots. A third in yet another swing state, Nevada, has backed Nye County’s effort and voiced support for making that sort of procedure standard statewide.

In Arizona, Republican State Rep. Mark Finchem, who is running for secretary of state, joined his party’s nominee for governor, Kari Lake, in filing a lawsuit seeking to outlaw the use of any machine to record or tabulate votes. The case was dismissed by a judge who levied sanctions against the Republicans.

In New Mexico, GOP secretary of state nominee Audrey Trujillo has said she wants widespread hand counting of votes.

“Hand count my ballot. We already have paper ballots,” she said in an interview on the video platform Rumble. “If we had that, I guarantee you tons more people would go out and vote.”

Neither Finchem nor Trujillo responded to the AP’s survey.

Nevada’s Republican secretary of state candidate has offered conflicting responses. A campaign spokesman for Republican nominee Jim Marchant told the AP that Marchant would be fine with a machine count as long as there also are paper ballots, which are universally used in Nevada. But the prior month, Marchant told the AP in a separate interview, “My goal is to go to a hand count paper ballot system.”

Nevada’s current secretary of state, Republican Barbara Cegavske, told interim Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf to halt the hand count of early arriving mailed ballots and early in-person votes until after polls close Nov. 8 following a ruling late last week from the state’s high court. The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union had sought to halt the hand count over concerns that observers could hear the results as they were announced, risking a potential public leak of early returns.

The nascent hand-count had been riddled with problems on its first day, with repeated delays and errors among the volunteer staff of 12 teams of five split into two different shifts. They got through 900 of 1,950 ballots on the first day, with one volunteer lamenting the slow pace: “I can’t believe it’s two hours to get through 25.”

An AP reporter observed two teams of five taking as long as three hours to count 50 ballots. When teams realized they had mismatched tallies for certain candidates, they would stop and recount the ballots for those candidates again. That effort followed a hand count in another rural Nevada county, Esmeralda, where election workers in June spent more than seven hours hand-tallying the 317 primary ballots.

Kampf said the teams improved during the second day.

Eleven candidates, mostly Republicans, did not respond to the AP’s survey, including one of the most prominent election conspiracy theorists running for the position — Republican Kristina Karamo in Michigan, a community college instructor who has spreading the lie that voting machines in 2020 were rigged.

“Election deniers are using the language of election integrity to dismantle the actual infrastructure of election integrity,” said David Becker, the co-author of “The Big Truth,” a book about the risks of Trump’s voting lies, and executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research. “If you want inaccurate results that take a really long time and cost a lot, then hand counting is your solution.”

Voting machines are routinely checked before and after voting to make sure they count accurately. The post-election test usually involves pulling a sample of random ballots and counting them by hand to see if the automated tally differs.

But repeated studies — in voting and other fields such as banking and retail — have shown that people make far more errors counting than do machines, especially when reaching larger and larger numbers. They’re also vastly slower.

Jennifer Morrell, a former local election official in Colorado and Utah, noted that hand counts are enormously labor-intensive. The election consulting firm where she works estimated that in a typical-sized jurisdiction of 270,000 voters, it would take 1,300 people to count the ballots within seven days.

That’s because the typical ballot has dozens of races on it, which machines tabulate automatically but humans would have to count line by line, page by page.

“Voting equipment is uniform and efficient in a way that humans will never be,” Morrell said.


Associated Press statehouse reporters from around the U.S. contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at:

Check out to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A homeless man injects a Narcan nasal spray into the nose of a female addict who appears to be over...
Associated Press

Fentanyl’s scourge plainly visible on streets of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In an filthy alley behind a Los Angeles donut shop, Ryan Smith convulsed in the grips of a fentanyl high — lurching from moments of slumber to bouts of violent shivering on a warm summer day. When Brandice Josey, another homeless addict, bent down and blew a puff of fentanyl smoke […]
9 hours ago
FILE - An election worker verifies a ballot on a screen inside the Maricopa County Recorders Office...
Associated Press

Arizona counties face deadline to certify 2022 election

Six Arizona counties must decide Monday whether to certify 2022 election results amid pressure from some Republicans not to officially approve a vote count that had Democrats winning for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide races.
9 hours ago
FILE - Meta's logo can be seen on a sign at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on No...
Associated Press

Irish watchdog fines Meta 265M euros in latest privacy case

LONDON (AP) — Irish regulators slapped Facebook parent Meta with a 265 million-euro ($277 million) fine Monday, the company’s latest punishment for breaching strict European Union data privacy rules. The Data Protection Commission said Meta Platforms infringed sections of the EU rules, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, that require technical and organizational measures […]
9 hours ago
This image shows the logo for the website and newsletter TheRighting, founded by long-time New York...
Associated Press

The Righting deciphers conservative media for outsiders

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly six years into monitoring the content of conservative media outlets for his website and newsletter The Righting, Howard Polskin hasn’t lost the capacity for surprise. Case in point: when Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential candidacy, and many of his long-time media allies let fly with anger and insults. Two […]
9 hours ago
This photo shows Charles Graves dressed as Santa Claus in Austin, Texas on on Sept. 3, 2022. Graves...
Associated Press

Santa’s back in town with inflation, inclusion on his mind

NEW YORK (AP) — Don’t look for plastic partitions or faraway benches when visiting Santa Claus this year. The jolly old elf is back, pre-pandemic style, and he’s got some pressing issues on his mind. Santa booker has logged a 30% increase in demand this Christmas season over last year, after losing about 15% […]
9 hours ago
FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and wife Gisele arrive to vote in Braddock, Pa, Tuesday...
Associated Press

Pennsylvania campaign wildcard Fetterman turns to governing

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — When John Fetterman goes to Washington in January as one of the Senate’s new members, he’ll bring along an irreverent style from Pennsylvania that extends from his own personal dress code — super casual — to hanging marijuana flags outside his current office in the state Capitol. Pennsylvania’s unique lieutenant governor, […]
9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Most candidates for top election posts say no to hand counts