PHOENIX — Maricopa County delivered its election equipment and 2.1 million ballots cast in November's election to Veterans Memorial Stadium so Republicans in the state Senate can recount the ballots and audit the tabulation machines.
In teams of three, workers spent Saturday inspecting ballots, searching for anything that could change a vote from Joe Biden to Donald Trump.
The audit is one many deem unnecessary after Maricopa County’s own audits turned up no evidence of widespread problems.
"We have a problem in Arizona with our elections. Evidenced by the fact as we speak we're having an audit," State Senator Kelly Townsend said from the floor of the Senate early this week.
Senator Townsend is one of the Republican state senators who demanded the audit because they don’t trust a system that allows the Maricopa County election department to visually inspect questionable ballots to determine the intent of the voter. "This is their system as much as anyone else. And now they're questioning it. I'm wondering why?” said former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes.
“They need to explain why the system they should have known well enough when they approved it, why they think that's a problem." In 2020 the Arizona Legislature passed unanimously SB 1135. The Secretary of State and the State Attorney General signed off on the bill and the Governor signed it into law. The law requires Maricopa County to use an electronic vote adjudication feature to make sure tabulated ballots accurately reflect a person’s vote.
In the 2020 election, 11% of the ballots cast in Maricopa County had to be adjudicated. Meaning two people from opposing parties had to visually inspect the ballot after it was flagged. As an example, it’s not uncommon for voters to vote yes and no for the same judge. But some Republican legislators suggest many of the ballots in question involve the presidential vote.
Many experts say that’s probably a stretch. Fontes says the truth can be easily confirmed, “All they got do is go look at the images of that 11%. Look at the determination and see if that is consistent with what got tabulated. This isn't that complicated."
Overseeing the audit for the State Senate is Ken Bennett. A former Secretary of State and a former President of the State Senate. "I am not going into this believing there is a big problem or there's none,” Bennett said. “I'm actually going into this if anything with the presumption from the recount we did 10 years ago when I was Secretary of State that election machines count votes on ballots very accurately."
The audit is led by Cyber Ninjas, a private technology company. It has two weeks to count 2.1 million ballots. A tall order for anyone. Especially a company that never did this before.
On Monday the State Democratic Party will try to convince a judge Cyber Ninjas isn’t qualified to do the job and the recount should be halted.