Barber wants more votes counted in Arizona 2nd

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected a request from Democratic Rep. Ron Barber to delay certifying election results as he challenges the reasons ballots that could shrink Republican challenger Martha McSally's slim vote lead weren't counted.

Kevin Hamilton, a lawyer representing Barber's campaign, said in a letter to the board that there are more than 130 rejected ballots that should have been counted. Barber's campaign has collected affidavits from voters who said they were qualified to cast a ballot but had their ballots rejected.

"As a result, if the board certifies the canvass without correcting all the errors in the vote count, there is a real possibility that the election for Arizona's second congressional district will be improperly certified for the wrong candidate," Hamilton wrote.

Barber trails Republican challenger Martha McSally by 161 votes out of more than 220,000 cast in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District.

McSally attorney Eric Spencer told the board that the only legal reason to delay the canvass was if votes were missing, and none were. He said Barber's challenge to the uncounted ballots properly belongs in court, in an election challenge.

Supervisor Ramon Valadez agreed. "We are not equipped to adjudicate these issues. We frankly are not. We're not the right body," Valadez said.

The election is headed for an automatic recount because the two candidates are separated by less than one-tenth of one percent - slightly more than 200 votes. That recount will be done early next month after the official statewide canvass and involve Cochise and Pima counties.

Hamilton said the next step is to challenge the statewide canvass. He would not speculate on possible court challenges.

"I'm disappointed that the board took that step," Hamilton said. "I think it's a mistake, and we'll be examining our options about where we go from here."

The board certified the election results Tuesday afternoon. Cochise County, the other part of the 2nd District, is set to certify its canvass Thursday, and Barber's lawyers expect to send a similar letter to those elected officials.

"Usually the results aren't as close as these, but when you have a race with a razor thin-lead and you have Americans whose votes have not been counted because of an honest mistake by a poll worker, that's something that needs to be fixed," said Rodd McLeod, a Barber campaign consultant.

The challenge is not the first of this election for Barber's district. McSally's lawyers unsuccessfully challenged the counting of some provisional ballots last week.

McSally has declared victory, but Barber hasn't conceded, saying a recount could change the outcome.

If McSally ultimately prevails, it would be the only victory by a Republican in the three Arizona congressional seats now held by Democrats that Republicans targeted this year. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema easily won re-election.

Barber won a special election in June 2012 to replace his former boss, Rep. Gabby Giffords, who resigned because of health reasons. She and Barber were both wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt.

McSally is a former Air Force pilot who lost to Barber in the 2012 general election but redoubled her effort this year.