County responds to AG questions on elections

County responds to AG questions on elections

Mohave County, Maricopa County, Cochise County, elections, ballots, tabulation, Lake, Hobbs, Hamadeh, Mayes,
An election worker gathers tabulated ballots to be boxed inside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office on Nov. 10 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Maricopa County is slapping back at allegations by the Attorney General’s Office that there were violations of state law in the handling of Election Day problems.

In a letter Sunday, Assistant County Attorney Tom Liddy rejected claims that the problems with printers at some polling places violated a constitutional requirement for elections to be “free and equal.” He said everyone who showed up at a vote center had an opportunity to vote – even if it wasn’t in the manner they preferred.

Liddy, in his response to Jennifer Wright, the head of the AG’s Elections Integrity Unit, acknowledged that state law requires “uniformity in the procedure for voting and tabulation of ballots.” But he said any suggestion that the problems with the equipment broke the law have no legal basis.

Bill Gates

“These laws … do not require every printer and tabulator work perfectly such that there can never be any unplanned and unanticipated equipment malfunctions,” Liddy wrote.

And he said the county followed all laws when dealing with people who left one vote center over problems and then tried to vote at a second site.

The response came less than 24 hours before the county was set to formally canvass the vote totals.

Kari Lake, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor, as well as some other losing GOP contenders, have said that cannot occur until there as been a “complete investigation” of issues raised by Wright. But a spokesman for the board of supervisors said there are no plans for a delay.

In a press release, Bill Gates who chairs the county board of supervisors, suggested that the response may not have answered all of Wright’s questions as the demand came only a week earlier. He promised “additional facts and transparency to the AG and other interested parties” in the coming days.

The response left Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, unimpressed.

“Maricopa County basically tells AG’s office to pound sand,” she wrote Sunday afternoon in a Twitter post.

“They just don’t have time to address disenfranchised voters,” Ward continued. “These people are a disgrace.”

Ward also questioned whether Wright will accept the explanation or “demand more than excuses.”

At the heart of the dispute is the fact that Maricopa County uses “vote centers,” allowing eligible individuals to cast their ballots at any location. That, in turn, requires that individually tailored ballots be printed on site.

Liddy said printers at nearly a third of the more than 200 voting centers were turning out ballots that could not be read by on-site tabulators though the choices could be seen by a human eye.

In that case, voters were given the option of putting their ballots into “Door 3” on the printer to be tabulated at the end of the day at county election offices.

Only thing is, Ward sent out messages telling people not to use that option. That caused not only backups at vote centers as some people insisted on trying to have their ballots read multiple times but also resulted in some voters choosing to leave to try another location.

Liddy told Wright the problem was relatively minor, saying fewer than 1% of the more than 1.5 million ballots cast in the election were affected. That figure, though, includes people who voted early whose ballots were counted at a central location.

But the bigger issue, he said, is no one was disenfranchised despite claims to the contrary by some Republicans like Lake who lost their races.

“Every voter was provided a ballot by which he or she could record their votes,” he said. “And all such ballots cast by lawful voters were tabulated, whether in the vote center or at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center.”

Liddy also said there is no basis to claim that the inability of some voters to get their ballots tabulated immediately, on site, violated their rights.

In fact, he noted, eight of the state 15 counties do not have tabulators at their polling locations. What that means, he said, is every one of the voters in each of those counties essentially is putting ballots into Door 3 to be tabulated at a central location.

“It cannot be the case that the limited use of the Door 3 ballot box for some voters in Maricopa County violates the (Arizona) Constitution, while the required use of a ballot box by every voter in over half of the state’s counties does not,” Liddy said.

“All voters were still provided reasonable, lawful options for voting,” he said. “No Arizona law requires ballots to be tabulated in polling locations using precinct-based tabulators.”

Liddy also said the county followed the law in dealing with people who wanted to go vote somewhere else after checking in at a vote center.

He said anyone who wanted that option was allowed to “spoil” his or her ballot in the presence of poll workers and checked out of that location. Then, on arrival at the new site, poll workers issue a new ballot after determining the person had not voted at the first site.

What that also means, Liddy said, is someone who left the first site without checking out would be listed on electronic rolls as already having voted. At that point, he said, a voter is issued a “provisional ballot” which is set aside until the county can later determine if that person had actually voted earlier.

All this, he said, is “consistent with Arizona law.”