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House Panel Approves Faster Vote Counting Process For Maricopa County

Paul Atkinson/KJZZ
stock | staff

The House Elections Committee voted unanimously to support a bill that will allow Maricopa County officials to resolve ballot issues digitally.

Ballots often need correcting when minor errors, like a smudge, make it impossible for machines to count a single vote. Sponsored by Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), the bill clarifies those corrections can be made digitally.

The current process to correct a ballot requires a physical duplicate copy of a ballot be printed and filled out in full, even if there’s only one vote on the ballot in question. That takes election workers an average of 12 minutes.

Townsend’s legislation would allow ballots to be duplicated digitally. That would allow election workers to identify and correct individual questions on ballots, a process that takes less than one minute to resolve.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and elections officials tried, but failed,  to get the state’s election’s procedures manual to stipulate the digital process of correcting ballots, known as electronic adjudication. But the provision was removed at the behest of the Attorney General’s Office, which argued that state law didn’t allow for the digital process.

Townsend said she was convinced to run the bill after Maricopa County officials showcased the digital process for lawmakers.

The bill includes an emergency provision, as Townsend hopes to get the bill signed by Gov. Doug Ducey before the looming March election.

“I think that everyone’s on board with getting this done and pushed through so it can be used for the presidential preference election, and we want to try out the machines so that we have a run through before the 2020 primary,” Townsend said.

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.