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Some Republicans Wish to Count Votes by Hand. Bad Idea, Experts Say.


Experts agree that hand recounts are useful in close races where a small variety of ballots could change the end result; a voter’s intent could also be clear to a human, for example, when it was to not a machine. In addition they agree that hand audits — spot checks of a small percentage of ballots — are useful in verifying machine counts.

Audits, that are common, can confirm “whether the machine’s mainly got it right,” said Charles Stewart III, a professor of political science on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the director of the M.I.T. Election Data and Science Lab.

But these tools are useful because they’re limited: The less ballots that employees must review by hand, the more time and a spotlight they may give each.

This level of diligence cannot realistically be replicated for each ballot in every race, experts said.

In no less than one place, Nye County, Nev., officials try to have it each ways — doing an initial machine count followed by a full hand count. (The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to attempt to stop the plan.) But that, too, has costs in time and resources.

Election staffs are sometimes overworked, and “to layer something this time-consuming and this susceptible to error on top of all that other work may be very concerning,” said Gowri Ramachandran, senior counsel within the Elections and Government Program on the Brennan Center for Justice. “In all but really the tiniest of jurisdictions, it just doesn’t make sense.”

In Cochise County alone, which accounted for lower than 2 percent of votes forged in Arizona in 2020, Mr. Lindeman estimated that a full hand count would require 12,000 person-hours of labor. The USA District Court for the District of Arizona present in the lawsuit from Ms. Lake and Mr. Finchem that within the state’s largest county, Maricopa, a hand count would require 25,000 temporary employees.

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