Judge denies Chritisne Jones' request for restraning order

Posted at 1:47 PM, Sep 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-07 01:31:48-04

A judge has denied a motion for a temporary restraining order in the hotly contested Republican primary in Arizona's 5th Congressional District.

Former internet executive Christine Jones filed suit Tuesday, asking a judge to order Maricopa County to pause processing of unofficial results so any errors can be corrected.

Judge Joshua Rogers set a preliminary injunction hearing in the case for Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

Unofficial results from the Aug. 30 primary for the 5th Congressional District had state Senate President Andy Biggs leading Jones by nine votes out of some 85,500 votes cast in the four-way race.

Biggs had 25,228 votes and Jones 25,219, while two other candidates each had about 17,000 votes, according to the unofficial results released early Saturday after over four days of counting.

The lawsuit filed by Jones' campaign contends the county should have counted votes from at least 300 eligible voters who cast ballots that weren't counted for various reasons and that some improperly identified people may have been allowed to vote.

"Obviously every vote is critical but here the numbers show why it is important," said Joe Kanefield, an attorney for Jones' campaign.

Reasons why eligible voters' ballots weren't counted included that they cast provisional ballots in the wrong precinct and their signatures on early ballot affidavits were incorrectly rejected, the lawsuit said.

State and county elections officials declined immediate comment, and representatives of Biggs' campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Biggs on Saturday had welcomed the unofficial results, saying he would start focusing on winning the general election.

The GOP nominee in the heavily Republican district in the southeastern suburbs will almost certainly replace Republican Rep. Matt Salmon, who is retiring.

The recount would follow state certification of the results during the official canvass of the primary election results scheduled next Monday.

Because the nine-vote margin would be well under thresholds set by state law, the state would go to court after the canvass to request permission to conduct the recount.

County election officials for several days would have election machines again scan voters' paper ballots, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Bartholomew of the county elections office.

She said workers would recount ballots cast by voters at polling places in the district on election day plus all early ballots cast countywide. Early ballots aren't segregated by district, she said.

Batholomew said only the 5th District results would be tabulated for the recount.

The elections office has fulfilled a public records request submitted by the Jones campaign and will work with campaign lawyers during the lawsuit, Bartholomew said.

Recounts in Arizona congressional races are rare because voter registrations in most districts favor one party or another, so winners typically notch large margins of victory.

However, the competitive 2nd District that includes part of Tucson and southeastern Arizona saw a recount as recently as 2014 when now-U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican, widened her margin to 167 votes, up from 161. She defeated then-incumbent Ron Barber, a Democrat, for a seat formerly held by Democrat Gabby Giffords, who left office after being seriously wounded in an assassination attempt.