The Cochise County Board of Supervisors is considering counting ballots by hand, an unusual step that election officials warn could be time consuming and unreliable.
Backers of the plan propose the county still use machines but that volunteers also set to work on tallying ballots during early voting, with the aim of finishing before the board of supervisors finalizes the results.
“This is not to replace any machine counting or any procedure we’re doing with a hand count of ballots. It’s not a replacement. It is a group of people that have volunteered their time,” Supervisor Peggy Judd said during a board meeting Tuesday.
Those volunteers are mostly Republicans, Judd said. And she acknowledged that counting ballots by hand may not be as accurate as using machines. But she argued the additional step could boost confidence in the election system.
The proposal comes as election officials confront a surge of conspiracy theories and false claims that ballot counting equipment has been and changes votes.
The Republican nominees for governor and secretary of state filed a lawsuit earlier this year to force Arizona counties to tally ballots by hand. But a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the two candidates didn’t produce any evidence showing a hand count would be more accurate.
State law already requires the county audit election results by hand. Officials will take a sample of ballots cast and check the results produced by tabulation machines.
But officials have raised concerns about tallying every ballot by hand, noting ballots contain dozens of races and propositions and that counties face tight deadlines under state law to produce final results.
A lawyer for the county cautioned the board that state law also does not provide for a separate hand count of ballots.
And the Secretary of State’s Office said there are no guidelines, rules or procedures in place for such an undertaking.
“Voting equipment is accurate and secure. Human tabulation is not,” said Sophia Solis, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office. “Voting equipment undergoes a litany of certifications and tests, before and after the election, to ensure it accurately tabulates results. Hand counting is prone to human error and is much less reliable.”
Judd said she would seek to put the issue on the agenda for a future board meeting.