WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Oct. 28, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) issued an advisory opinion permitting counties to conduct hand count audits of ballots in this year’s elections. Brnovich released the opinion after Cochise County voted to conduct a hand count audit last week in response to conspiracy theories on the reliability of voting machines. While Brnovich agrees that counties cannot hand count all ballots in every race, his opinion permits counties to hand count large numbers of ballots after a machine has electronically tabulated them.
According to the opinion, counties have full discretion to conduct hand count audits of “all ballots cast in person at 100% of the precincts or voting centers” as well as “100% of early ballots” so long as the audits are limited to “up to five contested races.” Notably, Brnovich’s opinion differs from guidance released by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) that states that only 1% of early ballots and only four races can be included in a hand count audit. While Brnovich’s opinion isn’t legally binding, Cochise and Pinal counties will likely use it to justify their pushes to hand count as many ballots as possible.
Even with the attorney general’s opinion, however, the counties face many obstacles in expanding audits. Hand counting is costly and time-consuming and it may be impossible for the counties to complete audits prior to the state’s certification deadline. Additionally, hand counts cannot proceed without volunteers from both political parties and the Arizona Democratic Party has not committed to participating in any audits.