Arizona GOP Announces Independent Audit of Maricopa County Recorder

Party says it hopes audit will "produce a fair, factually-based report" of tally

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The Arizona Republican Party announced Thursday it will conduct an independent audit of the Maricopa County Recorder's Office after legal issues and other complaints arose in the days-long count to decide Arizona’s next senator.

After Election Day, about 650,000 votes were not yet tallied in counties across Arizona, but the lion's share of those outstanding ballots resided in Maricopa County, the fourth-largest county in the country.

The vote count in the race between Martha McSally (R.,) and the eventual winner Kyrsten Sinema (D.,) went on for six more days beyond Election Day, in which time the GOP sued Maricopa County questioning how long the county could "cure" ballots where the signature on the ballot was not a good enough match to the voter's signature on file.

In instances such as this, the recorder's office may contact the voter to verify the ballot. However, some recorder’s offices stopped this "curing" process when polls closed at 7 p.m. local time on Election Day, while Maricopa County continued to cure ballots beyond that.

Days after the suit was filed and before the senate race was called, a settlement was struck allowing Maricopa to continue curing ballots up to an appointed time, but it also gained assurances that other counties would have the same time to cure all of their signature-flagged ballots as well.

In addition to the lawsuit, the GOP raised questions over the decision by Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes to open 'emergency voting' centers, which were available on the Saturday and Monday before Election Day.

The GOP said the emergency voting centers, which are allowed by law, were nothing more than extensions of early voting, which under Arizona law is required to end on the Friday before Election Day. Beyond that, the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors also wrote to Fontes to express concern over the emergency voting centers that were being used for the first time ever in a general election in the county.

There was also scrutiny on the location of the centers, with the state GOP arguing that it had been placed in "bluer" locations, and that Republican-leaning areas were left out.

When pressed on these issues, Fontes said it was not his job to try to find out whether a voter was actually experiencing an emergency or not, and that to do so would amount to an invasion of privacy, and added that one of the emergency voting centers was opened on the request of the mayor of a Phoenix suburb.

"The independent audit will analyze the Recorder's compliance with applicable state and federal law, and review all available documents," a press release from the Arizona GOP said.

"It is the AZ GOP's hope that this audit will produce a fair, factually-based report that will help us better understand what happened in this drawn-out election and address the many concerns of the voters."

The Thursday press release also indicates that the audit will lean on citizens sharing their voting experience.

"The auditor will soon set up a website where Arizonans can submit information about the recent election that might prove useful to the independent audit," the release continued. 

"The AZ GOP will provide updates on the progress of the review and will use the auditor's final report to help improve the voting and tallying process in future Arizona elections."

The Maricopa recorder's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Todd Shepherd

Todd Shepherd   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Todd Shepherd is a staff writer at the Washington Free Beacon. He began his reporting career in radio, working as an anchor and reporter for KOMA in Oklahoma City and KOA in Denver. He spent eight years as the investigative reporter for the Independence Institute in Colorado, a free-market-based think tank. Campaigns and Elections magazine named him a "Top Colorado Influencer" for his reporting and news blog. He’s a graduate of the media studies program from Oklahoma Baptist University. His Twitter handle is @shepherdreports.

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