Christine Jones is arguing that about 300 voters in Arizona’s 5th Congressional District should have an opportunity to rehabilitate their rejected ballots in the wake of her nine-vote loss to Andy Biggs in the Republican primary.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joshua Rogers on Tuesday denied Jones’ request for an order requiring the county to give those voters until 5 p.m. Wednesday to demonstrate why their ballots should be accepted. But the Biggs and Jones campaigns will be back in court on Thursday to plead their cases.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has agreed to delay its official canvass of the August 30 primary election, which had been scheduled to take place on Wednesday, until Friday, giving the court a little time to sort out the issues surrounding the rejected ballots. Election officials will conduct a recount of the CD5 primary after the state finishes its canvass of the election.
At issue are several hundred provisional and early ballots that the Jones campaign says were improperly rejected by county election officials.
The rejected ballots fall into three categories: voters who forgot to sign their early ballot envelopes; voters whose signatures were deemed to not match the signatures on record with the county; and voters who had moved within their precincts and were forced to vote with provisional ballots because their addresses didn’t match up with their voter registration records. The Jones campaign said poll workers also failed to tell some voters that they were at the wrong polling place, forcing them to cast provisional ballots.
And before the Biggs and Jones campaigns can determine which, if any, of the 300 ballots should have been accepted, they’ll first have to determine when the deadline was for voters to prove to election officials that their ballots shouldn’t have been rejected.
Kory Langhofer, an attorney for the Biggs campaign, said the deadline was three business days after the primary election, which would have been on Friday, September 2. Jones’ attorney, Joe Kanefield, argued that the deadline was five business days after the election, which would be Wednesday, September 7. Kanefield also questioned whether county officials properly reached out to voters who forgot to sign their early ballots so they would have a chance to do so prior to the election.
Kanefield said about 130 of the disputed ballots were dismissed because county election officials concluded that the signatures on their early ballot envelopes didn’t match up with the signatures on record with the county. He said the Jones campaign has identified 41 signatures that it has concluded are valid.
The attorney told Rogers that the campaign did not ask the voters who they cast their ballots for, and does not know whether they voted for Biggs, Jones, Justin Olson or Don Stapley. Jones led the CD5 race among early voters, while Biggs won among those who cast ballots on Election Day.
While Langhofer argued that the proper time for the Jones campaign to argue on behalf of the 300 rejected ballots is after the canvass and during the pending recount, Kanefield said it’s paramount for those ballots to be considered prior to the canvass. If the ballots aren’t added to the total before the canvass, Kanefield said election officials and the Biggs campaign are likely to challenge their inclusion during the recount.
Kanefield said the Jones campaign doesn’t know who those voters chose in the CD5 primary. But their ballots should be counted, he said.
“Those voters tried to vote. They tried to exercise their franchise and they were denied the right to do that,” Kanefield told the court. “We should let them exercise their right to vote.”
Langhofer said he doubts the lead in CD5 will change after a recount.
“When your candidate’s down and you’re in recount mode, you need chaos and disruption. So of course they were going to sue. Of course they’d ask for new votes to be counted,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s hearing.