Investigation: 2022 Cochise County ballots found in March appear to be due to human error

By Summer Hom/AZPM
Published: Friday, April 12, 2024 - 10:16am

A ballot being put into a USPS mailbox
KJZZ
A ballot being put into a USPS mailbox in Phoenix in October 2023.

Cochise County announced Tuesday the results of an investigation on two sealed mail-in ballots from the 2022 General Election that were found in a ballot drop bag.

The news release said that last month, County Elections Director Tim Mattix grabbed ballot drop bags used by election marshals from secure storage while preparing for the March Presidential Preference Election.

But when Mattix opened one of the bags, he found two sealed green ballot return mailing envelopes containing two mail-in ballots that were not tabulated as part of the 2022 General Election. The county said in its release that the ballot drop bags are used at vote centers for mail-in ballots dropped off by election marshals on Election Day.

After the ballots were discovered, the county said that Mattix informed County Administrator Richard Karwaczka, who then told the secretary of state.

"We are working with the Secretary of State’s Office on this, upon their guidance the found ballots were secured in the treasurer's vault, accompanied by a comprehensive memo detailing the investigative process and findings," said Karwaczka in an emailed statement.

After a monthlong internal investigation, the county said that “​​no conclusive explanation emerged regarding the presence of the ballots” and that “the situation appears to have been caused by human error with no malicious intent by any individual.”

The county established “chain of custody and verification measures” for those ballot drop bags for the Presidential Preference Election.

"Ballot drop bags are now returned to elections on Election Night, rather than in the days following the election," Karwaczka said in an emailed statement. "The receiving board on Election Night verifies that the ballot drop bag was received and that it is empty and signs off on this."

Cochise County Public Information Officer Jane Montgomery said in an email that these ballot drop bags "were used on election day if a voter wanted to drop off a sealed early voting envelope rather than enter the vote center."

Montgomery said the two voters have been notified.

Mattix announced his plan to resign last week for “personal reasons,” and will be effective April 20.

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