Recount results expected in Phoenix-area congressional race

Posted at 12:20 PM, Sep 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-16 15:20:36-04

The results of a recount involving thousands of ballots in the razor-thin Republican primary in Arizona's 5th Congressional District are expected to be announced Friday.

State Senate President Andy Biggs and former internet executive Christine Jones, who are separated by just 16 votes, are expected to be at a Maricopa County Superior Court hearing where the count will be disclosed.

The two candidates emerged from a four-way primary as the front-runners with Jones initially leading by hundreds of votes. But her lead dwindled just a few days later. Now, Biggs stands ahead out of the nearly 86,000 votes cast. His slim margin over Jones automatically warrants a recount under Arizona law.

Maricopa County and the state approved their respective canvasses Monday and elections officials obtained a court order for the recount Tuesday. Officials then started recounting the ballots after testing tabulation equipment.

While Biggs has already spoken of moving on to the general election, Jones is nowhere close to throwing in the towel. The former GoDaddy executive has made last-ditch efforts to challenge how ballots were processed in the hopes that more votes could be included.

Before the recount even began, her campaign filed a lawsuit and motion last week seeking a court order that would postpone county elections' certification of its results. According to Jones' camp, at least 300 eligible voters cast ballots that weren't counted and that some improperly identified people may have been allowed to vote.

Judge Joshua Rogers, who will preside over Friday's hearing, struck down the request for a temporary restraining order. But he ruled 18 uncounted ballots had to be tallied. According to Rogers, those voters cast provisional ballots at incorrect polling places during the primary and were not told that their votes wouldn't be counted. The result led to Biggs' 16-vote lead.

Jones' attorneys are now pushing for the state's top prosecutor to investigate alleged anomalies in the tabulation of early ballots. Her attorneys wrote a letter Monday to state Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, saying nearly 600 ballots cast in the race contained votes for too many candidates. They urged an investigation into whether there had been problems with machines. They also questioned "an unexplained drop in ballots tabulated from certain Chandler precincts" on Sept. 2 "including an entire region of Chandler that appears to be missing."

Attorneys for Biggs have accused Jones of creating chaos and disruption in an attempt to win the race.

According to unofficial results, Biggs has 25,240 votes and Jones 25,224 while two other candidates each had about 17,000 votes.

Both are vying to replace retiring incumbent Republican Matt Salmon. The GOP primary winner will be favored to win the open seat for the heavily Republican district in southeastern Phoenix suburbs, including Gilbert and parts of Chandler and Mesa.

Salmon had endorsed Biggs last February, seemingly paving the way for a smooth primary victory. But Jones, a candidate for governor in 2014, pumped $1.6 million of her own cash into the race. She touted herself as a conservative business leader with a platform focused on immigration, fiscal and foreign policy.