by Jim Nintzel
As Congressman Ron Barber and GOP challenger Martha McSally continue to battle for every vote in a race that Barber leads by just 512 votes, attorneys were in Cochise County court today in an effort to block the counting of provisional ballots in a predominantly Latino precinct.
Barber’s campaign manager, Jessica Floyd, said it was an effort by Team McSally to disenfranchise Cochise County voters.
"We respect the ballot counting process currently taking place and want to see it move forward,” Floyd said in statement. “The request for a temporary restraining order filed today is an active attempt by Martha McSally’s attorneys to disenfranchise voters in Cochise County. Throwing away the votes of Southern Arizonans is wrong and unacceptable.”
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Daniel Scarpinato emailed this statement: “We believe that every voter has the right to an election that is free of fraud and ballot tampering. Southern Arizonans expect that their will is not diluted by fraudulent ballots. We want to make sure the law is followed and the rights of legal voters are preserved.”
Attorneys Eric H. Spencer and Michael Liburdi of the Snell and Wilmer law firm claim that approximately 130 provisional ballots should not be counted because they “have been spoiled because they were not sealed, as required, when they were transported from the Castro Park, Ramsey and Hopi Precinct polling locations to the Cochise County Elections Department and Recorder’s Office.”
The lawyers have asked for a temporary restraining order to keep the Cochise County Division of Elections from counting the ballots.
But attorneys Paul F. Eckstein, Dan Barr and David Gaona of the Perkins Coie law firm, which is representing Barber, say that Judge Wallace R. Hoggatt should reject the request for a temporary restraining order because Spencer and Liburdi “simply cannot point to anything in section 16-584(D)—or any section of the election code, for that matter—which would require that provisional ballots be sealed when presented to election officials for verification.”
Additionally, Barber’s attorneys argue that “above all, the public interest does not favor casting aside 135 valid provisional ballots as a result of an invented technicality that has no basis in Arizona law.”
UPDATED: Democratic Party Executive Director Luis Heredia weighs in with a statement:
The actions of Martha McSally and her campaign to disqualify provisional ballots in a majority Latino precinct and in other parts of Congressional District 2 are both deplorable and desperate. The attempts to use temporary restraining orders in hopes of swaying this election's outcome threatens voters' rights and should be taken seriously. If this is the tone that McSally wants to set, she clearly does not know the district nor does she possess the qualities of leadership that are needed. This is a desperate campaign that seems to think the only way it can win is to cherry-pick votes.
We are still awaiting comment from Team McSally.
The legal briefs in the case:
Request for TRO: TRO.pdf
Barber response: Response.pdf