Barber request for counting of 133 votes deniedPosted: Updated:
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- The 133 ballots at the heart of a federal lawsuit in southern Arizona over election results in the hotly contested 2nd Congressional District will not be counted after all.
U.S. District Judge Cindy Jorgenson denied a request Thursday by U.S. Rep. Ron Barber and three voters to halt the official election results certification until the ballots of 133 lawful voters are counted. The official statewide election canvass is scheduled for Monday morning.
In her decision, Jorgenson said the court was not unsympathetic to voters whose ballots may have been improperly rejected. But Barber's campaign failed to prove that the discounted votes would undermine the integrity of the Nov. 4 election, Jorgenson wrote. She said the campaign's allegation that not issuing a restraining order would lead to "irreparable harm" was speculative.
"Even if all 133 votes are counted, it is undisputed that Martha McSally wins the election because she leads by a margin of 161 votes at this time," Jorgenson wrote.
Barber's campaign expressed disappointment Thursday.
"While we are disappointed in the court's decision, we remain committed to ensuring that Southern Arizonans are able to trust the integrity of this election, and we thank the voters who not only took the time to vote in this election, but who came forward to ask that their voices be heard," Barber campaign manager Kyle Quinn-Quesada said in a statement.
Quinn-Quesada did not say if the campaign planned to appeal but that they were looking forward to the recount.
The 133 ballots had been disqualified for a variety of reasons, but Barber attorney Kevin Hamilton argued that voters had done everything they were supposed to do to cast them. In many cases, he said, poll workers gave incorrect information about voting locations.
The race for the Tucson-area district between Barber, the incumbent, and Martha McSally, his Republican opponent for the second time in two years, came down to 161 votes in McSally's favor.
McSally has claimed victory and attended freshman orientation in Washington. Barber has challenged election results vigorously, first asking the boards of supervisors for Pima and Cochise counties to hold off on approving election results, a necessary step before they're approved at a state level. Both boards declined to do so.
McSally attorney Eric Spencer said it was unfair to voters who correctly cast their ballot to delay certification.
Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a defendant in the suit, said granting the restraining order could set precedent in other counties where ballots were disqualified. In Maricopa County, that would be up to 700 ballots, he said.
Jorgenson agreed with that sentiment, saying the hardship to the secretary of state and voters in the 2nd Congressional District outweighed the hardship to Barber's campaign.
Associated Press writer Terry Tang contributed to this report from Phoenix.
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