The information in this section provides background on how ballots are tabulated as well as the additional audit mechanisms in place to ensure the tabulation is accurate.
County elections officials are responsible for tabulating ballots for federal, state, and county elections. Tabulation can begin after the tabulation equipment has successfully passed the logic and accuracy testing and, for early ballots, once the County Recorder has verified the signature on the ballot affidavit envelope.
All early and provisional ballots are initially processed by a County Recorder's Office for signature verification then transferred to the officer in charge of elections for tabulation at a central counting place. Counties can begin tabulation any time after early voting has begun, and most early ballots will be tabulated in the weeks leading up to the election. Early ballots that are received on Election Day will be tabulated in the days immediately following the election. Remember, all early ballots must go through the signature verification process prior to being tabulated, which takes time.
Ballots cast on Election Day are either tabulated onsite at a polling location or at the county's central counting location. This process varies by county, so please check with your county elections officials to learn more about what you might experience at your polling location.
Reporting Election Results
Counties will begin reporting Election Day results either an hour after the polls close or once all Election Day results have been tabulated, whichever is earlier. The first round of results is typically the early ballots received prior to Election Day, followed by Election Day results. It will take several days for counties to finish processing early and provisional ballots, so expect results to continue to be reported for several days.
The public can view a county's tabulation room when ballots are present by clicking on the links below or going directly to the county's website. Counties will begin activating their livestream feeds in the weeks leading up to the election. See A.R.S. § 16-621(D) for more information about livestream requirements.
Hand Count Audit
A limited precinct hand count and early ballot hand count audit may be conducted after countywide primary, special, general, and PPE elections. The purpose of the hand count audit is to compare the results of the original count to the hand count to assure that the tabulation equipment is working properly and accurately counting votes. The chair of each recognized party that appears on the ballot must designate participants for the hand count audit for it to proceed. If a hand count audit is being held, the hand count must begin within 24 hours after the polls close on Election Day and must be completed before the county canvass. A.R.S. § 16-602(I).
- If the results from the hand count audit are within the "designated margin" of the electronic results for selected ballots, the countywide electronic results are deemed the official results of the election. A.R.S. § 16-602(C)
- If the results from the hand count audit are outside of the designated margin, a second hand count of the same ballots is required, potentially followed by an expanded hand count and one or more jurisdiction-wide hand counts depending on the results. A.R.S. § 16-602(F).
Designated margins are established by the Vote Count Verification Committee. The VCVC meets prior to each Primary and General Election to establish margins for that election. The current margins are:
- Early Ballots – The designated margin for early ballots is set to three votes or one percent, whichever is greater.
- Polling Place – The designated margin for polling place ballots is set to three votes or one percent, whichever is greater.
Conducting Post-Election Logic & Accuracy Test
Another step to ensuring the election results are accurate is through post-election logic and accuracy (L&A) testing of tabulation equipment. This testing must be performed by the officer in charge of elections after the official count has been completed but before the county canvass.
The post-election L&A test is performed using the same election program and tabulation equipment used for the pre-election L&A test and the election. The same test ballots and test script from the pre-election L&A test are utilized as a control. To successfully pass post-election L&A testing, the results must align with the results of the pre-election L&A test.
Canvassing the Election
The governing body conducting an election must meet and canvass the election results of each precinct or election district. The purpose of the canvass is to officially certify the election. The canvass includes vote totals for all races (including early ballots, regular ballots, and provisional ballots) and write-in votes.
A Board of Supervisors must canvass the official election results in a public meeting by the required deadline, which varies by type of election.
- For primary elections and PPEs, the Board of Supervisors must canvass the results within 10 business days after the election. A.R.S. § 16-241(C); A.R.S. § 16-645..
- For all other elections held on a consolidated election date (including general elections), the Board of Supervisors must canvass between six and 20 days after the election. A.R.S. § 16-645.
- For special elections, the Board of Supervisors must canvass the election according to the deadline established in the order calling the election.
The Arizona Secretary of State must canvass the results for any elections that include a federal, statewide, or legislative office, state appellate court and supreme court judges, and statewide ballot measures.
- For primary elections and PPEs, the Arizona Secretary of State must canvass the results on or before the third Monday after the election. A.R.S. § 16-241(C); A.R.S. § 16-645(B).
- For a general election, the Arizona Secretary of State must canvass the results on the fourth Monday following the election. The Secretary of State must conduct the general election canvass at a public meeting and in the presence of the Governor and Attorney General. If any statewide ballot measures appeared on the ballot, the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court will also attend. A.R.S. § 16-648(A)-(B).
Following an electoral college to select the President of the United States, the Arizona Secretary of State must transmit Certificates of Ascertainment and Certificates of Vote to the Archivist of the United States, President of the United States Senate, and the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona by the deadline provided under federal law.
A city or town council must canvass the official election results of city or town elections in a public meeting. A.R.S. § 16-403.
A special taxing district must canvass the official results for its elections in a public meeting and present the canvass results to the applicable Board of Supervisors at the Board's next regularly scheduled meeting. A.R.S. § 16-642(B).
Within 30 days following the date of any school election, the County School Superintendent must meet with the Chairperson of the Board of Supervisors or designee to canvass the returns in accordance with procedures for the canvass of returns in a general election. A.R.S 15-426(B); A.R.S. § 15-302(A)(8).
Determining Election Results
- The candidate who receives the largest number of votes is declared the party nominee for that office and issued a certificate of nomination by the Board of Supervisors (or designee). A.R.S. § 16-645(A).
- In order for a write-in candidate to become the nominee of a party with continued representation on the ballot, the candidate:
- Must receive the largest number of votes; and
- Must receive at least as many votes as the number of nomination petition signatures required to appear on the primary election ballot for that office. A.R.S. §16-645.
- Unless otherwise specified in law, the candidate who receives the largest number of votes must be declared elected to that office and issued a certificate of election by the Board of Supervisors (or designee); and A.R.S. § 16-647; A.R.S. § 16-650.
A ballot measure that is approved by a majority of votes cast for the measure will be declared to be law. Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 1, § 1(13).
A.R.S. § 16-649 specifies the result of the election in the event of a tie.
As of September 24, 2022, a recount must be performed following a general, primary, or special election if the margin of votes, based on the official canvass, between the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes for a particular office, or the votes cast for and against a ballot measure, is less than or equal to:
1/2 of 1% of the total number of votes cast for the top two candidates or the ballot measure in question.
Given this change in law (2022), it's possible that more contests will proceed through the recount process than in prior years. If this happens, election officials will work to keep you informed of the progress and outcome as soon as information becomes available.
The recount requirements do not apply for the following offices:
- Precinct committeemen;
- School district or joint technical education district board member;
- Community college district board member;
- Special taxing district board member; or
- Presidential candidate in a PPE.
If the official canvass demonstrates that a recount is required, the filing officer must inform the court who will issue a court order for the recount to begin. A.R.S. § 16-662. A candidate or member of the public may not request a recount as a matter of right.
A recount is conducted by running paper ballots from the applicable race through the designated electronic voting equipment. The respective election official will program the tabulation equipment to only tabulate the designated contest. Prior to tabulation, the equipment must again pass logic and accuracy testing to ensure that it is accurately tabulating votes. Once the results have been tabulated, and if the political parties request it, a hand count audit may occur. Upon completion, the elections officer will provide the results to the court, and the judge will announce the winner. No additional canvass is required.