Judge John Hannah hopes to issue a ruling Thursday morning on whether the Arizona Republican Party has demonstrated that Maricopa County officials failed to comply with state law in auditing Election Day ballots, or if there is no evidence of anything afoul.
But despite how the judge rules, the question of whether votes were tabulated correctly is likely to not end in Hannah’s downtown Phoenix courtroom.
On Wednesday, attorneys for the county, the Republicans, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and the Arizona Democratic Party argued before Hannah on whether a different sampling of ballots was supposed to be used for the hand counts. Maricopa County elections officials did the audit based on two percent of the 175 voting centers used on Nov. 3, while the plaintiffs contend the state law requires an audit of two percent of the county’s nearly 750 precincts.
Among the issues is how easily county officials could separate the ballots by precinct if Hannah rules that the hand count must be done differently. There is also a question of whether election officials should be ordered to compare the number of voters from each precinct who checked in to vote on Election Day to the number of ballots tabulated for each precinct.
One person who didn’t take part in the telephonic court proceeding was Elections Director Scott Jarrett. That’s because he was busy with a post-election Logic & Accuracy Test, also known as LA Testing, of the tabulation machines.
The test was slated to be conducted next week but then county officials informed the leadership of the three major political parties that it was going to be held Wednesday morning.
Linda Brickman, the new chair of the Maricopa County Republican Party attended the tabulation machines testing but refused to sign off on the results, as she believes any certification is premature. She says the party’s executive board voted Sunday to call on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to undertake “a comprehensive countywide investigation, audit and manual recount” of the general election votes.
Brickman also believes lawyers and investigators from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office conduct “a quick interview” with every elections office employee and temporary worker about their personal knowledge of “any irregularities” with the tabulation process.
However, Brickman’s action comes one day after Clint Hickman, the chairman of the county’s board of supervisors, issues a statement to voters in which he called people to “dial back the rhetoric, rumors, and false claims” about voter fraud and voting equipment malfunctions in Maricopa County.
Hickman’s letter noted that “critical questions” had been asked of county staff with no indication of any misconduct. He also assured voters that the election “was administered with integrity, transparency and in accordance with state law.”
Several state legislators have called on Maricopa County’s board to order a full hand count of all Election Day ballots, not just the small amount required by law. The most recent letter was initiated Monday by Rep. Bret Roberts and signed by 14 other Republican members of the legislature who believe the state party is correct in its hand count lawsuit against the county.
Meanwhile the county, the secretary of state, and the Democrats have asked Hannah to dismiss the hand count lawsuit as soon as possible.
While Hannah may have the final say on how the Maricopa County hand count is conducted, 157,062 voters across five Arizona counties have no idea whether their tabulation machines operated accurately on Election Day. That’s because election officials in Apache, Gila, Graham, La Paz, and Yuma did not conduct the hand counts required by state law.
In letters sent to the secretary of state, elections officials in Apache, Graham, and La Paz reported hand counts were not conducted because county-level leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties failed to participate.
In Yuma County, the Libertarians and Republicans didn’t participate, while in Gila County the local Republicans failed to participate.