A Maricopa County Republican Party leader has refused to sign off on a post-election examination of election equipment.
A month after approving the results of pre-election tabulator tests, party Chair Mickie Niland said she no longer believes the examinations go far enough to ensure public trust in the machines and election officials’ preparedness.
Her announcement came within minutes of an election lawsuit from Abe Hamadeh, the Republican nominee for state attorney general, and around the same time state Sen. Kelly Townsend subpoenaed the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors seeking information and records related to the county’s ballot printer woes on Election Day.
Hamadeh is trailing Democrat Kris Mayes by 510 votes statewide, according to full results from Arizona’s 15 counties. The race will head to an automatic recount after the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office certifies the results on Dec. 5.
In a statement, Niland cited concerns over insufficient testing between the county’s ballot printers and tabulators. She said a more through review of election preparations should replace the test, which she called “largely ceremonial.”
“My primary reason for not signing this test is I feel the test is largely obligatory, and is not a comprehensive test of their preparedness,” she said.
Although Niland refusing to sign off on the tests won’t halt the election certification process, it marks a continued trend of some prominent Republican candidates and personalities sowing doubt in Maricopa County’s election system.
In Arizona, pre- and post-election tests ensure that tabulators, machines used to count ballots, are tallying votes accurately. Both the state and county conduct their own examinations, known as logic and accuracy tests, to ensure proper counting. The pre-election test ensures that the tabulators are programmed properly; post-election tests verify no changes occurred on the machines.
Niland signed the pre-election logic and accuracy test conducted on Oct. 11, according to Maricopa County Elections Department spokesperson Megan Gilbertson, who declined to immediately comment further.
Political party representatives are invited to observe pre- and post-election testing of equipment. The Democrat who took part said she had absolute confidence in the election results.
Maricopa County Democratic Party Chair Nancy Schriber said Niland was present throughout the testing process but didn’t directly review the results spit out by the tabulators. Those numbers confirmed that the tabulators were working properly, Schriber said.
“We go through the results and we check them against the results that we signed off on a month before, at the pre-election (logic and accuracy) test,” Schriber said. “Everything was the same.”
She said she was “startled” when Niland refused to sign off on the testing.
“It’s a very transparent process,” Schriber said. “She must have her reasons, but I have no idea. She’s been part of the process since the beginning and I was surprised. That’s all I’ll say.”
GOP chair says she’s harbored ‘growing concern’ over testing
Niland had no concerns about the numbers not matching up, according to her statement.
“I have no doubt that the ballots will go through the central count tabulator with flying colors,” she said. “I have participated in two hand count audits where the results of these tabulators were confirmed by the bipartisan hand count teams.”
Her issue, she said, is that the test is insufficiently broad to catch issues like Maricopa County’s Election Day printer woes. About 30% of the county’s polling places experienced issues with printers producing ballots with marks too light for tabulators to read.
“To me anything less than a test of ALL the equipment is incomplete and does not logically or accurately test the process this equipment will be put through on Election Day,” Niland said.
She said limited testing has been a “growing concern” of hers since she attended her first tabulator testing in 2021.
“People feel angry, hurt and disenfranchised,” she said. “It is beyond unfair and thus the loud cries for a new election.”
Logic and accuracy test procedures are laid out in state law, and Schriber said she believes the county followed it.
“She wanted different things included, and that’s fine,” Schriber said. “But they followed the law and ran the test the way it is laid out in the law.
“The only intent of that team is to make sure that every vote on every ballot is counted and that the intent of the voter is honored,” she said. “I have full faith in this team. I have full faith in the process.”
Certification of results will continue
Arizona law mandates that political party observers must be given the opportunity to observe logic and accuracy testing, per the state’s Election Procedures Manual.
The law says nothing about all observers needing to sign off on the testing to certify election results.
Maricopa County officials are preparing to canvass, or certify, the results of the election on Nov. 28.
“The canvass is required by law and is the full accounting of ballots cast,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates in a statement on Monday. “It’s meant to provide a record of the votes counted and those that were not legally cast. There will be no delays or games; we will canvass in accordance with state law.”
Sasha Hupka covers Maricopa County and regional issues for The Arizona Republic with a focus on voting and democracy. Do you have a tip about elections or a question about voting? Reach her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @SashaHupka.