Nov 2, 2022 - Politics

New Arizona law could mean more recounts

Illustration of a hand placing a ballot in a box.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Arizona may see an unusually high number of recounts after the election due to a new law passed in the wake of President Biden's razor-thin victory here in 2020.

  • It loosens the requirements for when election officials must conduct a mandatory recount of a race.

Flashback: In previous elections, recounts were required only if the difference between the top two candidates was 0.1% of the total votes cast.

  • So if 100,000 people voted in a race and the candidates were separated by 100 votes or less, it would trigger a recount.
  • A recount would also take place if the difference was fewer than 200 ballots in a statewide race, 50 ballots in a legislative race or 10 ballots in a local race, if that number was lower than 0.1%.

Yes, but: Now, the threshold for all races is a difference of 0.5%.

  • Scott Jarrett, Maricopa County's director of Election Day and emergency voting, told reporters last week that there could be 3 million votes cast statewide, which would set the threshold for automatic recounts at 15,000 for statewide contests.

Why it matters: Vote counting in Arizona is already a lengthy process, and it could take longer to finalize the election results if numerous recounts are required.

  • Jarrett said automatic recounts can't be initiated until after the Secretary of State's Office canvass on Dec. 5.
  • The process could last until around Dec. 30, he said.

Zoom out: If the new threshold were in place two years ago, there would have been recounts in five races at the state or county level: president, Corporation Commission, county recorder, Board of Supervisors District 1, and Legislative District 28 Senate.

  • There have been only four recounts of statewide, congressional or legislative races in Arizona over the past decade, most recently in 2016.
  • The most recent one in a Maricopa County-level race was in this year's primary election, when a justice of the peace race was decided by just three votes.

The other side: State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, the Scottsdale Republican who sponsored the bill that's since become law, tells Axios that she expects the higher threshold and the competitiveness of this year's races to cause more recounts.

  • "When races are very close, razor-thin, it's important to be able to tell the public that you've exhausted your efforts to make sure that every ballot was counted accurately. This to me is like a no-brainer," Ugenti-Rita says.

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