Arizona elections chief criticizes policies used in recount

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Arizona Republic

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are being examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)

PHOENIX – In March, when it was clear that the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate planned to recount presidential votes in the state's most populous county, Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sent a letter urging the Senate president to adopt strict guidelines to ensure the results could be trusted.

Instead, President Karen Fann farmed out the recount to a supporter of election conspiracy theories with no recount experience who refused to share details of how the count would be done until a court ordered the disclosure and the recount was well underway.

That decision and others, including allowing a former state GOP lawmaker who was at the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection to count ballots, seem destined to taint the results of the recount that Republicans who control the Legislature say is needed to craft election law reforms.

“When you’ve got half of the people that do not trust the electoral system anymore, rightly or wrongly so, if they have questions, who is responsible for answering these questions,” Fann said in a Tuesday interview with Phoenix radio station KTAR. “How do ... we put election integrity back into our system. And that’s only what this has been about."

However, the recount has been contentious. Cyber Ninjas, the company hired to do the audit, initially refused to release its policies and procedures for re-tallying by hand the 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County, where President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump.

Counting started on April 23, after the state Democratic Party won a court order requiring the company to follow the law on ballot and voter secrecy and to file its policies with the court. Those policies were finally released Thursday, and by Friday criticism was piling up.

For example, the policies allow counters to accept a large enough error rate to perhaps show Trump won the state. But such an outcome would not change the outcome of the election because the results were certfied months ago in the state and Congress.

If a miscount is determined, it could, however, boost the unsupported argument of Trump and his backers that election fraud and malfeasance lost him the White House.