The Arizona Senate's hand recount of 2.1 million ballots cast in the Maricopa County election in 2020 is expected to conclude by the end of this week, but auditors still have several other tasks to complete before they are finished.
Contractors hired by the Republican-led Senate were previously expected to be finished counting ballots by hand by mid-May but extended the contract with the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the review is being conducted, to June 30 after audit overseers found it would take longer to complete the full recount.
"The counting will be done by the end of this week, and then the resources will shift to the paper evaluation," Senate audit liaison Ken Bennett told reporters at the venue on Tuesday. "That may still take most of the rest of this month."
Bennett, a former Republican secretary of state for Arizona, has been involved with the audit since it began on April 23. His comments on Tuesday signal the end to the visible hand recount that has required dozens of volunteers on the coliseum floor to count ballots for nearly six weeks.
Contractors still have to complete a "paper evaluation," which was described by Bennett as a process of reviewing ballot paper for irregular folds. Teams will also look for whether voting machines filled out ballots correctly and examine for differences between ballots sent by mail and those filled out in-person at a voting center.
"All kinds of characteristics about the ballot that confirm or question their authenticity," Bennett said, though members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors have vehemently denied there were any irregularities during the election, citing two previous audits led by county officials that found no anomalies in the 2020 presidential race.
A final report of the Senate Republicans' election audit is expected in late July or August, audit media coordinator Randy Pullen told NBC affiliate 12 News.
The audit has faced criticism from the majority-Republican Maricopa County Board of Supervisors along with opposition from Democrats who see the recount as a "dangerous fishing expedition" and a partisan GOP effort.
Former President Donald Trump, who boasted unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud following his defeat by President Joe Biden, has lauded the Maricopa County audit.
Biden was the first Democratic presidential nominee in 72 years to win Maricopa County, doing so by roughly 2 percentage points, and won the state of Arizona along with its 11 Electoral College votes.
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann's backlog of emails were revealed on June 4, showing she had been in contact with Trump's former attorney Rudy Giuliani since early December to begin working on the present audit at the coliseum. The emails also show Fann say she had a "personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud."
Elected officials have been making tours to the audit site in recent days, as Alaska state Rep. David Eastman and Georgia state Sens. Burt Jones and Brandon Beach took part in a tour of the facility on June 8.
Their visit follows a delegation of Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania who came to the site last week. Trump urged Keystone State lawmakers on June 4 to recreate an audit similar to the one in Maricopa County.
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Original Author: Kaelan Deese
Original Location: Recount of 2.1M Maricopa County ballots expected to conclude this week