Most candidates for top election posts say no to hand counts

Published 5:42 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The vast majority of candidates running to become their states’ chief election officers oppose hand counting ballots, a laborious and error-prone process that has gained favor among some Republicans embracing conspiracy theories about voting machines.

An Associated Press survey of major-party secretary of state candidates in the 24 states found broad skepticism about hand counting among election professionals of all ideological stripes. Of 23 Republicans who responded to the survey, 13 clearly said they opposed implementing a statewide hand count of ballots instead of a machine count.

GOP candidates in Arizona and New Mexico have previously endorsed the idea of a hand count. But others cautioned it was a dangerous road to follow.

“Hand counting ballots is a process that requires time, manpower, and is prone to inaccuracies,” Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, a Republican who is seeking reelection this year, wrote in response to the AP survey.

The desire to hand count ballots stems from conspiracy theories spread by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the electronic machines that tabulated the results of the 2020 presidential election were rigged. Now some Republicans inspired by his election lies seek to expand or require hand counting of all ballots.

Counting by hand takes longer, requires large groups of people to examine ballots, and has been found by multiple studies to be less reliable than using voting machines.

“The reason the U.S. moved to counting machines is due to both human error and fraud with hand counts, so we looked for a better way to count the vote,” said Kim Crockett, the Republican nominee for secretary of state in Minnesota, in an email. “The error rate for hand counts is higher than the error rate for ballot counters in most cases.”

Crockett, who has called the 2020 election “rigged” and echoed some of Trump’s other election falsehoods, also stressed that she thinks her state’s voting machines still need further inspection.

The process came under scrutiny last week when rural Nye County in Nevada embarked on an unprecedented full hand count of this year’s midterm votes, starting with mailed ballots and those cast early in-person. The process was painstakingly slow until it was halted by the state’s supreme court over concerns that early vote tallies could be leaked publicly.