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Q&AZ: Where Do Arizona Ballots Go After The Election?

With the 2020 presidential election mostly in the rearview mirror, one listener through KJZZ's Q&AZ reporting projectwanted to know what Arizona county recorder offices do with ballots after the election is over.

After the election, the Recorder’s Office goes through what is called a challenge period.

Megan Gilbertson with the Maricopa County Elections Department explains what happens after that.

“We store all of the voted ballots and any elections materials at the Elections Department through the challenge period. So we canvass the election, the Board of Supervisors canvases the election, and then there's a challenge period after that, and so we keep all of it at the Elections Department until then," Gilbertson said. 

After that, the Elections Department delivers both voted and unvoted ballots to the Maricopa County treasurer’s vault, where it stores ballots. According to the  Arizona Elections Procedures Manual, the county treasurer "shall keep [ballots] unopened and unaltered for 24 months for elections for a federal office or for six months for all other elections, at which time he shall destroy it without opening or examining the contents." 

During the storage period, ballots may only be opened with a court order — including for a recount.

Gilbertson said there are currently 3.2 million ballots currently being stored the Maricopa County treasurer’s vault, which represents 10 elections.

→  More Arizona Election News

Hunter Brownstein was an intern at KJZZ from 2020 to 2021.