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Arizona’s top election official on security of vote-counting process

Ballots are still being counted in the battleground state of Arizona, although the Associated Press called the state for Joe Biden on Wednesday. Officials are set to release more vote totals later Thursday evening. Arizona’s top election official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss processes and progress, the presence of election observers and the threat of litigation.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as Amna just explained, the ballots are also still being counted in the battleground of Arizona, and officials there are set to release more vote totals later this evening.

    So, let's bring in the state's top election official. She's Katie Hobbs. She is Arizona's secretary of state. And she joins me from Phoenix.

    Katie Hobbs, thank you very much for joining us.

    So, bring us up to speed on where the vote count stands right now.

  • Katie Hobbs:

    Rough estimate, there are about 450,000 ballots left to be counted in the state, bulk of those, obviously, in Maricopa County, just under 300,000.

    And we expect them to release some additional results this evening, 7:00 p.m. Arizona time. And so that will — we will see a little bit more about kind of where things are going after that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, I'm asking everyone this question, even though, as we all know, what we really care about is that every vote gets counted, and that it gets counted accurately.

    But tell us why it has taken several days after the election to get the ballots counted.

  • Katie Hobbs:

    Well, the ballots that are being counted right now are ballots that we weren't able to signature-verify and start processing and tabulating before the election. So, it's early ballots that got dropped off in the last couple days, Monday or Tuesday, before the election.

    So, we have had unprecedented turnout in Arizona this year. And that was the number we didn't know, is how many of those ballots would be dropped off, in terms of being able to estimate how long it would take. And there were just a lot of those ballots.

    Honestly, we are where we thought we would be in terms of where — of counting right now. And we're actually ahead of where we were in 2018, with few — with more ballots at this point.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just to remind us about Arizona's rules and regulations, are there observers from both parties watching the counting?

  • Katie Hobbs:

    Absolutely yes.

    Additionally, our tabulation centers have cameras in every — in every tabulation room. So, anyone can go to the county elections Web site for their county, find the link, and watch the tabulation as it's happening.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you said a moment ago it'll take a little bit longer to get some of this information.

    When — do you have an idea of when all the counting will be finished?

  • Katie Hobbs:

    I think the bulk of it, what we have been told, the bulk of it will be done this weekend.

    Maricopa County is going to be releasing their totals daily at 7:00 until they're done. And the other counties with smaller amounts of ballots are doing it regularly during the day. I don't have all the specific times. But, by the weekend, we should have most of the ballots counted.

    The ones that will be left are provisionals. Counties have five days, so until Tuesday, to complete the resolving of those provisional ballots to determine if they can be counted.

    And so — but, obviously, that's a much smaller portion of the votes that are outstanding.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Trump campaign, as you know, is filing suit in a number of states around the vote count.

    Are you prepared if that takes place?

  • Katie Hobbs:

    We are prepared.

    There hasn't been a suit filed here yet. And, honestly, I'm not sure what it would be that he would contest. Right now, he's in the position to want the votes to be counted in Arizona. Of course, they're going to be counted whether he wants them to or not.

    And so stopping the vote count is not something that I think he would try to do. After the election, should there be a push for a recall, our recall margin is extremely narrow. And there's no basis for someone to go to court and request a recall if the race is not within that margin, according to our state laws.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just finally, I know there's an allegation going around the Arizona count that ballots that had been marked with a sharpie pen, as opposed to a ballpoint or another kind of pen, were being discounted.

    Can you set a straight on that?

  • Katie Hobbs:

    Absolutely. I would love to set you straight on that.

    The sharpies were provided by election workers, because they are the recommended markers for marking ballots for the particular tabulators, because the ink dries faster and it doesn't create smears in the tabulators.

    There is no truth to the — to anything about those ballots being invalidated. And if, in fact, there were, in a polling place, if the tabulator couldn't read the ballot, that ballot would be spoiled, and that voter would be issued a new ballot.

    In the tabulation centers, if the tabulator can't read ballots, there's a process in place for making sure all those ballots are counted. So, it does not matter what device you use to mark your ballot. If it was crayon, if it was red pen, if it was a sharpie, whatever, it's going to be counted, regardless of whether it can be counted by the machine or not.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I'm glad to let you have a chance to set us straight on that, because we know that is an allegation that's been flying around. And it's important to be clear with people on what the truth is.

    All right, Katie Hobbs, who is the secretary of state for the — for Arizona, we appreciate it. Thank you.

  • Katie Hobbs:

    Thank you so much.

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