Ari­zona GOP set­tles suit over Se­nate count

Albuquerque Journal - - METRO & NM -

PHOENIX — Ari­zona Repub­li­cans who had al­leged the state’s two big­gest coun­ties were il­le­gally count­ing some bal­lots changed course Fri­day and agreed to set­tle their law­suit if ru­ral vot­ers also get an ex­tra chance to fix prob­lems with bal­lots cast in the state’s tight U.S. Se­nate race.

The set­tle­ment was tech­ni­cally be­tween Repub­li­cans and the state’s county recorders, but Democrats and civil rights groups who had jumped into the fray agreed to it as it was an­nounced in a Phoenix court­room Fri­day af­ter­noon. Ari­zona’s 15 coun­ties now have un­til Wed­nes­day to ad­dress the is­sue, which state Elec­tions Di­rec­tor Eric Spencer said most likely af­fects fewer than 10,000 votes out of more than 2.3 mil­lion cast statewide.

The Repub­li­can law­suit said that the state’s county recorders don’t fol­low a uni­form stan­dard for al­low­ing vot­ers to ad­dress prob­lems with the sig­na­tures on their mail-in bal­lots, and that Mari­copa and Pima coun­ties im­prop­erly al­low the fixes for up to five days af­ter Elec­tion Day.

The law­suit set­tle­ment in a court­room packed with more than a dozen lawyers and many re­porters came a day af­ter Demo­crat Kyrsten Sinema jumped into a slight lead over Repub­li­can Martha McSally in the midst of the slow vote count. On Fri­day night, she padded her lead to about 1 per­cent­age point of the 2 mil­lion bal­lots tal­lied. About 400,000 re­main un­counted.

Even as the Repub­li­can at­tor­neys pur­sued a deal that would let con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing coun­ties match sig­na­tures like the two ur­ban ones, a tweet by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump seemed to at­tack the way Mari­copa and Pima coun­ties op­er­ated. “In Ari­zona, SIG­NA­TURES DON’T MATCH,” Trump tweeted. “Elec­toral cor­rup­tion — Call for a new Elec­tion?”

Four lo­cal Repub­li­can par­ties filed the law­suit Wed­nes­day night chal­leng­ing the two large coun­ties’ prac­tice of reach­ing out to vot­ers af­ter Elec­tion Day. If the sig­na­ture on the voter regis­tra­tion doesn’t match that on the sealed en­ve­lope, both Mari­copa and Pima coun­ties al­low vot­ers to help them fix, or “cure” it, up to five days af­ter Elec­tion Day.

Many other coun­ties al­low vot­ers to fix their sig­na­tures un­til polls close on Elec­tion Day. Now, all will fol­low the stan­dard set by Mari­copa, Pima and two other ru­ral coun­ties that al­low for post-Elec­tion Day fixes.

A Mari­copa County of­fi­cial said Thurs­day that only about 5,600 bal­lots were af­fected in her county and the rate is sim­i­lar in the 14 smaller coun­ties. Spencer said that means fewer than 10,000 in all.

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