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What's ballot adjudication and how does it affect Arizona's election audit?

Maricopa County ballot analysis
Posted at 11:22 AM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 21:17:06-04

PHOENIX — Adjudicated ballots are a key issue in the Arizona presidential election audit because of unfounded allegations that those ballots could have been fraudulently altered to benefit Joe Biden.

Maricopa County's 2.1 million ballots, the subject of the Arizona Senate-ordered audit, had an 11 percent adjudication rate. Some have dubbed this an "error" rate.

When a voter tabulation machine can't read an early voting ballot for any reason, the ballot is ejected from the machine for a process called adjudication. In Maricopa County, teams of two people, a Democrat and a Republican, examine these ballots in an effort to determine voter intent.

Larry Moore, a retired CEO from voting system company Clear Ballot, showed ABC15 examples of why ballots may end up in adjudication.

Moore and a bipartisan team used vote data to conduct their own, independent audit of Arizona's 2020 presidential election results. They shared their full data results exclusively with ABC15.

First, he showed us examples from prior elections on how people don't completely fill out their ovals. Some voters use checkmarks, Xs, or slashes on the ovals. They even have seen circles around the choices.



Adjudicators must determine when they are confident that a voter's mark indicated intent to vote for the corresponding candidate.

Sometimes, voters will even put their pen on the oval for one candidate, making a "hesitation" mark, according to Moore, before actually selecting a different candidate.

Adjudicators will also look at overvotes, when a person selects more than the allowed number of candidates in a race.

In this case, a voter selected four candidates instead of the maximum of three candidates.

In this case, four candidates have oval marks instead of three, but one is less filled in. What should an adjudicator do?

Moore showed ABC15 how adjudicated ballots are noted on Maricopa County's cast vote record. The CVR is a database showing results from all 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 Presidential Election.

In these cast vote records, the orange writing on the top image indicates a ballot that has been adjudicated. The image on the bottom shows a non-adjudicated ballot.

Using the cast vote record, Moore and two other retirees with decades of election experience, spent weeks tracking down how many ballots in Maricopa County were adjudicated in the presidential race, the results of those adjudications, and how that impacted the overall vote totals. This was part of a larger analysis where they tried to bust myths about Arizona's presidential election results.

Moore's team's analysis is separate from the Arizona audit ordered by state Senate President Karen Fann. The state's audit, taking place at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, is ongoing.