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Judge to hear Arizona Republicans’ challenge to vote count

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – Four Arizona counties’ Republican parties will have their day in court Friday, when a judge will hear their challenge of which early ballots should count at the same time votes were being tallied for a close races in the U.S. Senate and other offices.

The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m.

The GOP in Maricopa, Apache, Navajo and Yuma counties filed the lawsuit Wednesday night, objecting to the state’s two biggest counties — Maricopa and Pima — for giving voters a chance to verify questionable signatures on early ballots that were dropped off on Election Day.

If the signatures on the voter registration and sealed early ballot envelopes don’t match, those two counties are giving voters up to five days after Tuesday’s election to resolve the issue.

In Maricopa County, the state’s largest county, the lawsuit would impact only about 5,000 of the approximately 345,000 ballots yet to be counted.

“We’re talking about something in the neighborhood of about 4,900 that are left to try to cure, and we’re working on those right now,” Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Friday.

It’s not clear how many ballots it would impact in other counties.

KTAR legal expert Monica Lindstrom told Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Friday that the Republicans who filed the lawsuit knew about this issue before the election.

“This is an issue that we have had for a while now. This law has not been clear or consistently followed with the counties,” she said.

The outcome of the lawsuit could have more impact on future elections than this one, Lindstrom said.

“The result that comes from this lawsuit will hopefully clear everything up so in our future elections we don’t have to worry about these issues anymore,” she said.

Other Arizona counties only allowed voters to resolve signature issues until the end of polling at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

And that is why the suit was filed, Maricopa County Republican Party Chairman Chris Herring said.

“You can’t give one American one set of rules for voting and another person another set of rules in the same jurisdiction,” he told Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Thursday, before late tabulations moved Democrats ahead in two tight statewide races.

 

The state’s junior Republican Senator, Jon Kyl, issued a statement trying to frame the lawsuit as a question of equal protection rather than limiting urban vote counting.

“Every single lawful vote in Arizona should be counted,” Kyl said. “And voting laws in our state should be applied uniformly across the map.”

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema led Republican Martha McSally by about 9,600 votes early Friday, with 49.10 percent of the votes to 48.59 percent. She had trailed by 17,000 the previous day.

Vote counts submitted Thursday evening from Maricopa and Pima counties put Sinema in the lead. Those results also pushed Democrat Kathy Hoffman ahead of Republican Frank Riggs in the superintendent of public instruction race.

“I think every valid vote should count. I think every eligible United States citizen who is casting a valid ballot that is verified should have that ballot count,” Fontes said at a press conference Thursday.

More than 400,000 Arizona ballots remained uncounted. More than 2.2 million votes were cast in the state.

Arizona has a history of being slow at tallying ballots even though about 75 percent of votes are cast by mail. Each of those ballots must go through a verification process.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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