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Former Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell shares Senate audit concerns over ballot 'hand count'

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Posted at 1:31 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 07:58:28-04

PHOENIX — It's been weeks since the Senate was allowed to take custody of more than two million ballots cast in Maricopa County last year. Still, they sit untouched inside the county elections department's secure facility, awaiting a decision.

"Losing the ballots to a different location, that possibly wouldn't be under the scrutiny of cameras I think is really a stretch," said former Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell. "It's certainly not something I would agree with."

Last month, ABC15 was the first to report emails that showed Senate leaders had no plan in place to securely store the county's voted ballots, which Arizona law requires.

Senate leaders then argued they expected to conduct the work inside the Maricopa County Elections Department's secure facility, despite subpoenas they issued clearly stating the ballots were to be dropped off at the Arizona State Capitol.

“I would think unless that subpoena is changed, I certainly understand the county's reluctance to do anything," added Purcell.

Helen Purcell served as Maricopa County Recorder for more than 30 years, first elected in 1988. The Republican Recorder was scrutinized in 2016 after she closed some polling locations prior to the 2016 general election. Some voters say long lines, as a result of that move, left them unable to vote.

Purcell says she received a phone call from an attorney representing Arizona Republican Senators leading the charge towards an effort to audit Maricopa County's elections systems, and the more than 2.1 million ballots cast earlier this month, asking for her help.

“He asked me if I would be willing to oversee this process," said Purcell. “It’s really not a necessary process. So, it’s not something I believe that needs to be done or that it should be done.”

Purcell says she trusts the results of two independent audits already conducted by firms hired by Maricopa County earlier this year proving there were no errors or fraud in the 2020 General Election.

On Thursday, Senate leaders announced a plan to conduct a full hand recount of every ballot.

“That’s certainly a Herculean task to undertake in that period of time," said Purcell. According to the Yellow Sheet Report, Senate President Fann says she hopes to complete a recount of all 2.1 million ballots in just three weeks, with hopes of using volunteers to do the job.

Purcell worries who will be handling voted ballots, and whether proper election procedures will be followed.

“Anytime you touch those ballots there could be changes, there could be smudges," said Purcell. "They are only human, and humans make mistakes. So, there is always that possibility."

Many, including Purcell, still wonder who will be leading the Senate's planned "forensic audit" of Maricopa County's election equipment. On Thursday, Senate leaders said they've narrowed down their search for an audit firm to "a preferred forensic audit team," however, fell short of identifying that firm, or those involved in heading the process. Senate leaders say they "hope to have an announcement soon."

“I know a judge said that the Senate has the power to subpoena, I just don’t happen to think that that is what we need to do," added Purcell. "We need to move on from this election.”