Why 133 Votes Weren't Counted in the Race Between Ron Barber and Martha McSally
Ron Barber for Congress/Facebook
This week, Democratic Congressman Ron Barber's campaign filed a federal lawsuit over 133 votes that were cast, not counted, in the race for his congressional seat.
The margin between Barber and Republican challenger Martha McSally is close enough -- 161 votes -- to require a recount, and despite the ongoing complaints from the Barber campaign over these 133 uncounted votes, the results were certified by two counties' board of supervisors.
Although the Barber campaign tried to stop the boards of supervisors in Pima and Cochise counties from approving the election results, Cochise County Elections Director Jim Vlahovich pointed to the state law that requires the boards to approve, or "canvass," the results within 20 days of the election.
"Our Board of Supervisors simply does not have that discretion," deputy Cochise County attorney Elda Orduno tells New Times. "We're bound by statute."
According to state law, the only reason this canvass could be delayed is if votes that were cast somehow went missing.
So they approved the results to comply with the law, but why didn't they count these 133 votes in the first place?
According to the Barber campaign's lawsuit, these votes weren't counted for a variety of reasons, like the voter casting a provisional ballot at the wrong polling location, or a signature on the ballot not matching the voter's registration form.
A few of these moves simply disqualify the voter's ballot, like casting a ballot at the wrong location. In other cases, like when a voter forgets to sign their ballot, Orduno says the county does its due diligence in trying to contact that voter to get them to sign the ballot so their vote is counted.
Some circumstances seem a bit more tricky -- the Barber campaign alleges that in some cases, voters who were turning in provisional ballots at the wrong polling place were told by election workers that it's okay to do so, or weren't directed to the correct polling place, which poll workers are supposed to do.
Orduno concedes that despite a day of "expensive training" for poll workers, "mistakes do happen."
"Our job is to make sure to put forth a fair vote, and make sure everyone gets an opportunity to vote that's eligible," she says. "We're doing our best over here, promise."
Still, the Barber campaign's lawsuit alleges "ongoing disenfranchisement" of these 133 voters, and is seeking to stop the state's certification and recount of the results until these votes are counted.
Generally, the lawsuit argues that the fundamental right to vote is the paramount issue.
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