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Supes OK count as Barber alleges ballots improperly rejected

Barber camp says to wait for final tally

The Pima County Board of Supervisors rejected Tuesday a bid by U.S. Rep. Ron Barber to delay the canvass of the Nov. 4 election. The congressman's campaign — on the losing edge of a 161-vote margin with a recount in the offing — said that 132 Pima voters had their ballots tossed out because poll workers "failed in their duty."

Barber said that errors by poll workers led to voters casting ballots at the wrong locations, while others were mistakenly tossed out because signatures didn't match. His lawyers asked the county board to delay the voter certification and count those ballots that they claim were improperly excluded.

Far from conceding the race, Barber's campaign has stopped short of saying that they'll file a suit to challenge the vote count, but said they'll continue to ask state and local officials to include more ballots in the count.

The campaign of Republican Martha McSally didn't immediately comment on the issue. Tuesday, her lawyers argued before the board that the supervisors didn't have the authority to delay the canvass. Last week, her lawyers went to court in an attempt to halt the counting of some ballots, but a judge denied the move.

After hearing from both campaigns the supervisors voted 4-1, with Democrat Richard Elias dissenting, to approve the vote tally and forward it to state officials, who are scheduled to approve it Dec. 1.

Barber's campaign said in a letter to the board that more than 130 Pima County residents had their right to cast a vote in the CD 2 race violated.

"Just because mistakes get made, doesn't mean voters get disenfranchised," said an attorney for the incumbent Democrat.

The canvassing process is designed to spot and correct errors, "and ensure the final certified results are correct," said Kevin Hamilton, from the Perkins Coie law firm.

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"The system broke down here," with voters not directed to the correct polling locations. "This is not a failure of the voters, but a failure of the poll workers," he said.

In Pima County, 776 ballots were rejected for various reasons, with nearly half — 371 — rejected because registered voters went to the wrong polling place, County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said last week.

Because the 2nd Congressional District covers only part of Pima County, not all of those ballots are relevant to the Barber-McSally race.

Along with the letter, affidavits from 132 voters were sent to the supervisors, describing why they believe their votes should be counted.

Among them were Sita Adhikari, who became a U.S. citizen in 2013 and was casting a ballot in her first election. Her vote was discarded because she cast a provisional ballot in the wrong polling place. Adhikari said that poll workers did not direct her to the correct polling location, as they are required to do.

Also told that her ballot was not counted was Roma Page, who was born in 1919 and been registered to vote since she was 21 years old, Barber's campaign said. Page, an Arizona resident since 1985, had her ballot rejected because her signature on an early ballot did not match the one on her registration card.

"Like many older voters, her signature has changed with age. She called the Pima County Recorder's Office to ensure that her ballot was counted, but they neither returned her call, or counted her ballot," Barber's lawyers said.

The Barber campaign's letter to the supervisors pointed to two married couples — all were registered to vote, but both wives had their ballots discarded. One couple were incorrectly told their names were not on the voter lists. The husband pointed out his name and voted a regular ballot, while the wife voted a provisional ballot that was not counted. Another couple who had recently moved were told their names were not on the rolls; the husband's provisional ballot was counted while the wife's was not.

Another voter spoiled his original ballot, and was not given a replacement regular ballot as required, but rather a provisional one — that was not counted, Barber's campaign said.

The Cochise County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to canvass the vote there on Thursday. Barber's campaign is working to challenge the vote there as well, Hamilton said.

The attorney couldn't say how many ballots would be at issue in Cochise.

Hamilton wouldn't say whether Barber was preparing to sue to have more ballots included in the count; the campaign is taking the issue "one step at a time," he told reporters Tuesday.

"Arizona law has multiple levels," he said.

"The process isn't done," he said, with the campaign still receiving calls from voters concerned that their ballots weren't counted.

The unofficial totals in CD 2 are 109,704 for the Republican challenger, and 109,543 for the Democratic incumbent.

Arizona's first-ever recount in a congressional race will be mandated because the difference between the candidates is 200 votes or less.

Recount pending

It took eight days of counting votes after Election Day, but with the final batches tallied last Wednesday, TucsonSentinel.com declared McSally the winner. The third time was the charm for the Air Force veteran, who finished with a razor-thin 161-vote lead over Barber — one that will trigger an automatic recount after ballots are canvassed by the state next month.

The outcome of the election won’t be official until next month, but the Republican congressional hopeful reinforced her recent claim to victory by showing up in Washington, D.C., for freshman orientation Monday.

But McSally isn’t waiting around for a recount. After claiming victory last week, she announced on Friday that Chris Shaefe would lead her transition team, and on Monday she showed up at the Capitol for orientation.

“While we still have a recount to go, we expect similar results and will provide the necessary oversight to ensure accurate results,” she said in a press release.

“I'm here to declare victory. We've won,” McSally told about 120 supporters at a party Wednesday evening as the final vote count was reported.

Barber's team said McSally's declaration of a win was premature.

"A few days after asking a judge not to count the votes of hundreds of Arizonans, Martha McSally is ahead by 7 hundredths of a percentage point," said campaign spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn. "Arizona's law calls for a mandatory recount with a margin this tight."

"Instead of declaring victory, we should unite in the commitment to count the votes of Southern Arizonans, and respect the outcome when it is final," she said.

Barber indicated he'd work to add votes to his total during the recount, which officials said wouldn't be held until next month.

"With the unofficial counting of votes now complete, the result is so close that the law requires an automatic recount," said Nash-Hahn. "The law is written this way because every election includes some human error, and with an election as close as this one, it is important that we ensure the integrity of the results."

The incumbent Democrat's campaign will "will work to see that every lawful vote is counted," she said, noting that over 700 ballots were rejected as invalid by the Pima County Recorder before being counted.

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Third-time charmer

Elections in Southeastern Arizona have been a series of rematches over the past few cycles.

Ron Barber was elected to Congress twice within six months in 2012. He gained his seat in a special election to replace the retiring Gabrielle Giffords, who stepped down a year after she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt.

Barber, an aide to Giffords at the time, was shot twice in that incident, which killed six and wounded 11 others.

In that contest, Barber beat two-time Republican candidate Jesse Kelly, who'd lost to Giffords just 18 months before. McSally, who lost the special GOP primary in the spring, ran against Barber and lost again in the November 2012 election.

For the former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, the third time was the charm.

McSally, who wears a gold aircraft on a chain around her neck, used her military resume and ability to maneuver around controversial issues to appeal to just enough voters in the divided district.

Arizona's 2nd Congressional District is heavy with retirees and military personnel, and includes two major bases: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Ft. Huachuca.

Barber ran on the platform that succeeded for him in 2012, and for Giffords before that: emphasizing Social Security, casting votes on border issues that irked the liberal wing of the Democrats, and hitting his Republican opponent for being too conservative and beholden to the Tea Party.

In an image shift, McSally played down her conservative credentials this time around; in '12, she had to emphasize them in her unsuccessful primary against Kelly.

She also toned down references to her faith that had raised questions among some voters. In 2012, she's said she was "called by God" to run. That phrase didn't crop up two years later.

Instead, she strafed Barber with accusations that he was too tied to the Democratic establishment.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 10 »

10
1768 comments
Nov 19, 2014, 9:40 pm
-2 +2

Cactus Dave asserted:

If you don’t know who they are than you your comments are more uninformed than I thought…

Well, if this is how you feel then you should have no desire to read any more of my posts, let alone respond to them, in the future.

You, on the other hand, have never left an intelligent comment here, you have never made a point (let alone a good one), you have never cited a reference, you haven’t even stated a fact, really. All you ever do is hurl baseless, outlandish insults toward the subject of a story, or to someone commenting in response to it. As best I can tell, each and every one of your comments left here has been based on assumptions of facts not in evidence. This is why I have never taken you seriously, and I very highly doubt that anyone else here ever has, either.

All your comments to date have been a complete waste of your time and the Sentinel’s bandwidth. If you had any brains or any pride you would be thoroughly embarrassed by each and every one of them.

9
343 comments
Nov 19, 2014, 5:43 pm
-2 +2

If you don’t know who they are than you your comments are more uninformed than I thought…

8
1768 comments
Nov 19, 2014, 4:37 pm
-2 +2

Cactus Dave asserted:

More redbaiting…why don’t you just post your membership card from the John Birch Society you mindless idiot

I’m apparently even more mindless than you give me credit for, because I have no idea what “redbaiting” is, and I don’t have the first damn clue who John Birch or Allen West are. I could Google them, but I’m just not that interested, in all honesty. I will say that if they’re thorns in the side of someone like you, then they must be pretty good guys.

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Click image to enlarge

Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Barber on election night.

Rejected ballots

Of 10,118 provisional ballots reviewed by the Pima County Recorder's Office, 9,342 were determined to be valid and included in the vote count, Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said.

Barber's campaign team has indicated they are likely to challenge the rejection of some of those ballots, in a move to overcome McSally's 161-vote lead in the unofficial final vote count.

Here are the reasons those ballots were rejected, provided by Rodriguez on Wednesday:

Number of ballots Reason for rejection Notes
371 Voter went to wrong polling place
318 Ineligible voter 146 never registered, 84 previously registered (cancelled registrations), 88 registered after cutoff date
52 Voted early and attempted to vote at polls Recorder said she'll refer for investigation by county attorney
28 Unsigned ballots
4 Address outside Pima County
3 Identity unconfirmed