A poll worker handles ballots in Phoenix, Ariz., on Oct. 25, 2022. (Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty Images)
By Zachary Stieber November 8, 2022
County officials are not allowed to order a full hand count of ballots cast in the 2022 midterm elections, a judge ruled on Nov. 7.
Two members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors recently approved a plan for a “100 percent county wide audit” of the election, saying the hand count would “enhance voter confidence.”
They were sued by the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans, a nonprofit that said the plan violated state law governing hand counts.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley agreed, ruling that A.R.S. §16-602 does not permit an election official to conduct a hand count of manual audit “starting with and consisting solely of 100% of the ballots cast in an election, rather than by using the increments of ballots established by statute.”
While hand counts of electronically tabulated results are required by state law, the law forces officials to randomly select a portion of the ballots, not count each ballot that was cast, McGinley said. A full count is allowed only if there is a difference between the two sets of results.
He ordered election officials in Cochise County to follow state law, as opposed to the board’s resolution, when it performs hand counts.
The Pima County judge received the case because it involves Cochise County board supervisors. That is typical in cases involving the supervisors, according to the board.
“What we intended to do was legal and if I can find the will in other key participants and way to do it, I will proceed,” Cochise County Supervisors Peggy Judd told The Epoch Times via email. “Pima County is our most liberal county in Arizona. It was in our judge’s DNA to side with the plaintiff. Our attorneys presented the best defense that could be had and we lost due to political bias. Hand counting is as American as apple pie. I am extremely blessed to be serving alongside visionaries, statesmen, and defenders of truth from our county and beyond that have our backs all the way. I am not licking wounds today and I assure you, they are not either.”
Judd approved the hand count plan with fellow supervisor Tom Crosby.
The ruling means that “it’s illegal to check the accuracy of your voting machines,” Crosby told The Epoch Times in an email.
Saundra Cole, president of the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans’ Arizona chapter, said in a statement that the ruling “is a big win for all voters in Cochise County, particularly older voters who are more likely to vote early in Arizona.”
The office of Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, also celebrated the decision as “a win for Arizona’s voters.”
“Drastic changes to election processes, especially during an election, would create chaos and confusion,” Allie Bones, deputy secretary of state, said in a statement.
In an earlier motion to dismiss the case, Cochise County Recorder David Stevens said that the plan “will merely serve as an additional confirmation of the accuracy of that process, consistent with Defendants’ legitimate interests in safeguarding our elections and reinforcing public confidence in the elections process.” The expanded hand count was legal under the law, he said.
Crosby and Judd, both Republicans, approved the plan to count all ballots in October. Democrat supervisor Ann English opposed it. Crosby and Judd later said the count would only involve certain races. Their plan was supported by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican whose office said the plan was legal.
Cochise County hand-counted about 1,100 votes in the 2022 primary election in one day, and about 1,700 in the 2020 presidential election across two days. The most recent count matched with the electronic tabulation. The 2020 count was within the variance outlined by the Arizona secretary of state’s office.