Arizona lawmaker proposes test to see how long hand count would take

Jan 31, 2023, 4:00 PM

An election worker inserts a stack of ballots into a scanning machine at the Maricopa County Tabula...

An election worker inserts a stack of ballots into a scanning machine at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on Nov. 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker is proposing legislation that would pit man against machine in a ballot-counting showdown.

Senate Bill 1471, introduced by Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), calls for a test run to determine how much manpower and time it would take to hand count a full election.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer is staunchly against full hand counts, but he is on board with Kavanagh’s idea, which targets the state’s largest county.

“This legislation will build confidence in our election system by showing that machine tabulation is highly accurate, free of bias and fast,” Richer, a Republican, said in a statement.

The bill would limit the testing to counties with more than 2 million people, which means only Maricopa.

The proposal involves recounting a sample of ballot test decks from logic and accuracy testing for the 2022 general election.

The county would feed the actual ballots through a tabulating machine, while photocopies would be hand counted by volunteers teams, each of which would have members from at least two of the state’s three largest political parties.

After the count is done, “the officer in charge of elections shall estimate how many persons working 16 hours each day would be required to hand count the entire number of ballots cast in the November 2022 election,” the bill says.

The proposal doesn’t include any actions that would be required after the results are reported to state officials.

The bill calls for the testing to start by Sept. 1 of this year and for the legislation to be repealed at the end of February 2024, so the process wouldn’t be recurring.

Some Republicans have called for the elimination of machine counts, arguing without evidence that they are subject to fraud.

Last year, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by two Republican candidates, Kari Lake and Mark Finchem, that sought to stop the use of ballot tabulation machines in Arizona.

Lake, who was running for governor, and Finchem, a secretary of state candidate, went on to lose their races.

Arizona elections officials have been criticized for how long it takes them to finish counting ballots, something that would likely take much longer without tabulation machines.

Richer recently proposed changes to state law that would speed up the process.

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Arizona lawmaker proposes test to see how long hand count would take