Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Ariz. Senate Panel Clears Bill to Hand-Count All Ballots

'The biggest finding he has from the audit is that the more technology we use, the more chance there is to cheat...'

(Headline USA) Republican state senators on Monday advanced legislation that would require every ballot cast in Arizona’s elections to be counted by hand, in the wake of significant irregularities in the 2020 election that were uncovered by an independent forensic audit.

The proposal from Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, was approved by the Senate Government Committee Monday afternoon on a 4-3 vote with no Democratic support.

The measure is one of scores of election bills making their way through the Legislature this year. Arizona had the closest margin of any state, with the final tally giving Democrat Joe Biden a lead by just 10,457.

However, public outrage over suspicious behavior, including the use of Sharpies and non-regulation paper to mark provisional ballots, led the state to re-examine the voting in its largest county, Maricopa.

The final audit report found that tens of thousands of votes which helped give Biden a slight edge could not be accounted for due to irregularities, including ballots that appeared to have been photocopied.

Also benefiting from the administrative debacle was Sen. Mark Kelly, a Democrat who ousted Republican appointee Martha McSally by a margin of less than 80,000 to fill the seat of the late John McCain.

That victory helped Democrats claim the US Senate majority with a 50–50 split that allows Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tiebreaking vote. Kelly faces re-election this November.

Rogers said her proposal for an all-hand count tabulation was prompted by comments made by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan. The Arizona Senate hired the company to recount 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots last spring.

“This does away with the machines,” Rogers said. “When I interviewed cyber forensic expert Doug Logan … he told me that the biggest finding he has from the audit is that the more technology we use, the more chance there is to cheat.”

Jen Marson, executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties, claimed the proposal was simply unworkable.

“As we know, we cannot get enough people in many of our counties to conduct the limited hand count that happens post-election,” Marson told the panel. “I struggle to believe that we would have enough people to hand count the entire election and all of the different ballot styles associated with that election in any kind of timely fashion.”

Rogers countered that there would be no shortage of volunteers to tabulate the ballots quickly, although she failed to mention there are dozens of races on each ballot. Statewide, 3.4 million ballots were cast in 2020.

Sen. Kelly Townsend, the committee’s Republican chair, was shepherding more than a dozen election bills through her panel Monday afternoon, with plans to go into the evening.

They included bills to ban the required use of “Sharpies” to mark ballots as she sought to address just one of the concerns that led Trump supporters to dispute the election results.

With only a one-vote majority in the Senate and House, many of the more outlandish proposals are unlikely to make it into law.

In addition to Rogers’ proposal to require paper ballots and banning machine counts, others would eliminate voting by mail, which is used by the vast majority of Arizona voters.

Republican Sen. Paul Boyer is one big roadblock.

“So I’m not voting to decertify [the 2020 election], I’m not voting for the 17 tests and the magic paper,” he told the Associated Press last week, the last a reference to a plan to add a host of ballot paper security measures. “I’m not voting to get rid of early voting. I’m not voting to prohibit all-mail ballots for schools, school elections. What else was out there?”

GOP House Speaker Rusty Bowers is another—he recently assigned a Republican House member’s plan to eliminate mail-in voting and require hand counts to be done in one day to 12 different committees.

Democrats have scoffed at many of the Republican efforts, calling them outgrowths of Trump’s campaign to get lawmakers in a half-dozen battleground states where he lost to overturn the election.

In the Senate committee hearing on Monday, the three Democrats on the GOP-dominated panel mainly stayed silent as a parade of election bills were heard.

“It’s one of those days where you’re realizing that they’ve gone so far off the rails that it almost kind of defies giving it any more legitimacy than it already has by trying to comment,” Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada said in a brief interview during the panel’s dinner break. “You’re not going to persuade these folks, and these ideas are so crazy that it’s like it’s not even worth arguing against.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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