FILE - Katie Hobbs

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs

(The Center Square) – Two bills have been introduced in the Arizona Legislature after a report earlier this month found room for improvement in the state’s election audit process.

The report was issued by The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy organization, and the R Street Institute, a nonprofit focused on free-market initiatives.

The groups said Arizona’s 2020 election was safe and secure, but found room for improvement in conducting post-election audits.

“Audits give election officials the opportunity to check for potentially serious errors or security breaches and to reassure the public that they can be confident in the election results,” the report said.

Such audits were not performed in five of Arizona’s 16 counties because the chairperson of one or more political parties in those counties did not designate the required members to serve on the appropriate board tasked with the hand-count audit.

The new legislation would repeal laws that allow for what is known as an “audit stop order” and instead institute risk-limiting audits. Such audits would be automatic, thus removing political parties from the process, and be focused on a specific goal of confidence based on statistical methodology.

That means more ballots would be counted in closer races, while fewer ballots would be counted in races with a larger margin of victory. Such an approach also would save taxpayer resources by not hand counting every ballot in lopsided races.

“If testing of the sample is consistent with the original reported vote total, it is almost certain that the initially declared winner actually won the race,” the report said.

The bills allow county election officers the option to conduct risk-limiting audits for the 2022 general election and appropriates $100,000 in each of the next two election cycles to provide grants for equipment and training grants to such counties.

One provision of the legislation that has not garnered as much attention is the restoration of voting rights to Arizona residents who have been convicted of a felony.

The bills state convicts who have received a “final discharge” from the state Department of Corrections will be allowed to vote. Such a discharge includes the completion of any sentence and probation and the payment of any court-ordered victim restitution.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said 234,000 people in the state would be able to vote again if the bills are signed into law.

Early voting also would be expanded, allowing people to vote in person at polling locations until 5 p.m. on the Monday before the election, rather than the current deadline of 5 p.m. on the previous Friday.