A county judge in Arizona on Nov. 30 ruled that the state's Republican Party can inspect a sampling of mail-in ballot envelopes and a selection of ballots that were duplicated from originals.
Maricopa Superior Court Judge Randall Warner said the party can examine 100 mail-in ballot envelopes, or images of them, selected at random by election officials, and compare them to voter signatures on file.
He also said the GOP can review 100 duplicate ballots and the original ballots from which they were duplicated, selected at random by election officials.
Warner said he capped the number of ballots because it wasn't necessary to view more.
"From a statistical standpoint, I don't think you need a huge sample to know whether there are irregularities or misconduct," he said.
The people who cast the ballots that will be inspected aren't to be contacted in any way and their identities should be kept confidential, the judge added.
"Given the large number of ballots and limited timeframes, plaintiff requests a reasonable inspection (sampling) of the signatures that can be performed in the appropriate statutory timeframes ... and to compare the mail-in ballot signatures to the signatures on file," they wrote.
"By the proposed inspection/discovery, plaintiff wishes to determine whether the failure by election officials to allow legal observation of the mail-in ballot signature-verification process—which is the only 'check' that is performed by elections officials to ensure that mail-in ballots were actually filled out by the voter—resulted in insufficiently or falsely verified ballots being approved and tabulated."
More than 3 million mail-in ballots were used in the 2020 election, far more than ever used before.
Ward said earlier Nov. 30 in a video she posted on Twitter that many Republican poll observers "were unable to actually observe in any meaningful way."
"So we need to examine those signatures on those envelopes that ballots came in, so that we can make sure that real people voted in this election," she said.
Attorneys for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, had argued that Ward was seeking "to perform what can charitably be described as a fishing expedition before filing a baseless election contest," they wrote in a proposal to intervene.
In the courtroom, they said allowing Republicans to inspect ballots would set "a very dangerous precedent."
The judge said the lawyers may be right but that he wanted to "err on the side of transparency and to air these things out, so that whatever the results are, we can be confident in them."
In a statement about the ruling, Ward said it was "a step in the right direction, and is important to help ensure the integrity of our election."
The next hearing in Ward v. Jackson, et. al, is set for Dec. 3 at 10:30 a.m. local time.