Cochise vote count delayed; McSally leading
While challenger Martha McSally was leading Rep. Ron Barber by just 36 votes Wednesday morning, that widened to about 2,000 as the Republican stronghold of Cochise County slowly tallied ballots, then dropped to 1,300 as more Pima County numbers came in.
Citing another round of technical troubles, Cochise officials said early ballots had yet to be counted Wednesday morning. McSally led handily in those Cochise ballots that had been counted.
While the vote count across CD 2 was 94,103 for McSally to 92,810 for Barber, incomplete Cochise returns reported showed McSally up 8,318 to 3,911 over Barber in the morning, with the afternoon tally there standing at 19,864-13,415 in favor of the Republican.
In results released Wednesday morning, McSally led Barber 78,785 to 78,749. In the afternoon, as Cochise County reported results, she increased her lead to 90,345-88,267.
As Pima County tallied more votes, McSally's overall lead fell to a 1,300-vote spread.
Election results: Updated live
In a repeat of problems demonstrated in the August primary, county officials there said that they've delivered their early ballots to Graham County to be counted.
"Due to discrepancies between the early ballot counting machine numbers and the handwritten tally, the County's early ballots have been delivered to Graham County for tabulation," said a notice on the Cochise website.
The early ballot count should be completed Wednesday, Cochise officials said on their website.
Cochise officials never explained what went wrong in August.
Wednesday, they didn't have a ready account of their election difficulties.
"We're still sorting this out and will respond back as soon as we can," said Jim Vlahovich, the interim director of the county's election department, in response to emailed questions.
The Secretary of State's Office reported that, at 5 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, there were 3,222 early ballots left to count in Cochise County.
The Barber camp remained upbeat.
"This isn’t our first rodeo. Two years ago, we woke up the day after the election with a significant vote deficit, but when the last early ballots were counted, Ron triumphed," said Ashley Nash-Hahn, a campaign spokeswoman for the Democratic congressman.
"Vote counts will go up and down as the remaining early and provisional ballots are counted, but in the end, when the votes are counted, we’re fully confident that we will continue to win the early ballots, and Ron Barber will win another term in Congress," she wrote in a morning press release.
Barber campaign advisor Rodd McLeod said the congressman pushed Democrats to vote early in Cochise County.
"We don't think we're going to lose (the early vote) by anywhere near the numbers we lost the Election-Day ballot," he said. "All the tens of thousands of (still uncounted) Pima votes will even it out and we'll lead in the end," he said.
Team Barber continued to put out the message that they'll win, with Nash-Hahn saying Wednesday evening that, "As we expected, vote leads have gone up and gone down. Protecting the integrity of the vote is our priority. There are still tens of thousands of votes to be counted in Pima County, where Ron currently has a lead."
McSally also sounded a note of confidence, posting on her Facebook page: "Right now, there are still many ballots to be counted and the race is too close to be called. It's critical that every last vote is counted and that all Arizonans have their voices heard."
In midafternoon, McSally emailed a statement on the extended count to the press: "After all the ads and a long campaign season, I'm sure a lot of people would like nothing better than for this race to have a winner. It's like getting to the end of a marathon and being told you have another 10K to go."
"But while the democratic process can be slower than we want at times, it's critical to making sure all Arizonans have their voices heard," McSally said, echoing her comments from the morning.
In Pima County, which is partly covered by Barber's CD 2, there were nearly 50,000 ballots remaining to review Wednesday morning. In a process that can take up to 10 days, provisional ballots and early ballots handed in on Election Day must be verified before they can be counted. Officials said there were 32,659 such ballots, along with 14,200 other ballots not yet tallied.
About 23,000 ballots were verified by the Pima County Recorder and sent to elections officials to be counted Wednesday, county spokesman Mark Evans said in an evening news release. Just under 10,000 provisional ballots will be reviewed beginning Thursday.