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National Govt & Politics
Judge refuses to limit Arizona vote count, sets hearing
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Judge refuses to limit Arizona vote count, sets hearing

Judge refuses to limit Arizona vote count, sets hearing
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bob Christie
A supporter crosses her fingers as she talks with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, at a get-out-the-vote event at the Arizona Education Association headquarters in Phoenix, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Sinema is facing Republican Martha McSally in the race to replace Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is retiring. (AP Photo/Bob Christie)

Judge refuses to limit Arizona vote count, sets hearing

A judge on Thursday rejected Republican demands to immediately limit vote counts in the razor-close U.S. Senate race in Arizona and has set a hearing on the challenge affecting about 5,600 votes in the state's most populous county.

Judge Margaret R. Mahoney said it was too soon to require Maricopa and other counties to stop contacting voters to verify signatures on mail ballots. She also declined to order the counties to temporarily separate mail ballots that have been verified by that process after Election Day.

County registrars said that would cause chaos and slow the long vote-counting process even more.

Mahoney scheduled a hearing Friday and indicated she would rule then.

The lawsuit came hours before Democrat Kyrsten Sinema jumped into a slight lead over Republican Martha McSally in the midst of the slow vote count. Sinema is ahead by about 9,000 votes out of 1.9 million counted so far. About 400,000 remain to be counted in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

The suit alleges that the state's county recorders don't follow a uniform standard for allowing voters to address problems with their mail-in ballots, and that Maricopa and Pima counties improperly allow the fixes for up to five days after Election Day. Sinema has gained votes recently from Maricopa, and Pima is a Democratic bastion.

Lawyers who filed the suit say they'd be happy if Mahoney decided to order the state's more rural counties to follow the same procedures, which would have the effect of expanding the vote count.

Currently, several other counties that lean Republican destroy mail ballots if voters don't help verify their signatures before polls close on Election Day.

"At the end of the day, each vote should be treated the same way," attorney Bret Johnson said in an interview.

Recorder Adrian Fontes, the official in charge of counting ballots in Maricopa County, home to 60 percent of Arizona voters, said his office would not finish tallying votes for another week.

"We know there's urgency out there, but we want to get it right, not quick," he said.

Arizona is notoriously slow at tallying ballots even though about 75 percent of votes are cast by mail. Those ballots must go through a laborious verification process.

If the signature on the envelope does not match the signature on the voter file, elections officials can contact the voter to try to resolve the discrepancy. Such situations arise, for example, when voters have Parkinson's disease and can no longer sign as they did in the past.

At Thursday's hearing, officials from the state's 15 counties suggested the lawsuit only involves a fraction of votes. Colleen Connor, deputy Maricopa County attorney, said there were only 5,600 votes in Maricopa that would fall under the lawsuit and that the rates elsewhere also appeared low.

Fontes said part of the logjam is due to his office's computer system dating from the 1980s, when Maricopa was far smaller and only a handful of its residents voted by mail.

He said the system only allows his office to tally about 75,000 votes a day.

The two Senate campaigns have long braced for a slow vote count. McSally is no stranger to the issue. It took The Associated Press 12 days to declare a winner in McSally's first race for Congress, which she narrowly lost.

On Thursday, she tweeted: "Woke up this morning dreading a long and painful process. I've been here before, and now, here I am again.the dentist's chair." She attached a photo of herself leaning back at the dentist's office, about to get her teeth examined.

___

For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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  • After a post-election vote fight that showcased vote counting troubles in two south Florida counties, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) conceded defeat to Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Sunday, ensuring Republican gains in the Senate in the 2018 mid-term elections, and delivering a welcome piece of good post-election news for President Donald Trump and the GOP. “I just spoke with Senator Bill Nelson, who graciously conceded, and I thanked him for his years of public service,” said Scott in a statement. “My focus will not be on looking backward, but on doing exactly what I ran on,” Scott said. “Making Washington Work.” Florida elections officials on Sunday announced a final advantage for Scott of 10,033 votes – that was down from just under 15,000 in favor of Scott when the machine recount began, and lower than the nearly 12,500 edge for the GOP before the hand recount started on Friday. For Republicans, the hard fought win gives them a gain of two seats in the Senate for 2019, as the GOP will have a 53-47 edge, provided they can also win a special runoff election for Senate in Mississippi after Thanksgiving. The Scott victory was a rare piece of good news for Republicans since Election Day, as the GOP has lost a number of close House races in recent days. Democrats have now gained 37 seats in the House, with five GOP seats still undecided amid continued vote counting. Nelson becomes the fifth U.S. Senator to lose in November, joining three other Democrats – McCaskill in Missouri, Heitkamp in North Dakota, and Donnelly in Indiana – along with one Republican Senator, Heller in Nevada. While 5 Senators were tossed out by the voters in November, 27 House members – all Republicans – have been defeated. Several more could still lose in the five remaining House contests which are undecided. Hanging over the defeat for Nelson is what appears to have been a ballot design problem in one small part of Broward County, Florida, where thousands of voters did not cast a vote in the U.S. Senate race, which happened at a much higher rate than other areas in that county. The Florida Senate count is at Scott+10,033, right around the margin where the Broward County undervote/bad ballot design could have been decisive. We may never know https://t.co/Gg14C1heaV — Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) November 18, 2018 The ‘undervote’ problems in that area of Broward County were just part of a slew of post-election issues highlighted by the wrangling over the final tally in both the Florida Senate and Florida Governor’s race.
  • Over a week after being publicly ridiculed for losing her seat in Congress by President Donald Trump, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) on Friday night was on the verge of pulling off a stunning comeback in her re-election bid, as the continued counting of ballots in her Utah district finally pushed her into the lead by a slender 419 votes. “Hard to see how she relinquishes that now,” said Dave Wasserman, an elections expert who has been forecasting a possible comeback by Love for several days. Still being tabulated are thousands of provisional ballots in Utah and Salt Lake counties, which take time to verify, as Utah and a number of other states slowly push their way through the votes of the November mid-term elections. The jump into first place for Love came as a judge tossed out a lawsuit that she filed – which oddly would have stopped vote counting in Salt Lake County – a move that her opponent said ‘smacks of desperation.’ “Utah voters deserve better than this,” said Democrat Ben McAdams. With the Utah County numbers posting, Rep. Mia Love has taken a 419-vote lead over Ben McAdams. #utpol — #VoteGehrke (@RobertGehrke) November 16, 2018 But the McAdams lead over Love has slowly withered away in recent days, leaving Love favored by many to win re-election. A comeback victory would be filled with irony, especially after the mocking ridicule heaped upon Love and a number of other House Republicans by President Donald Trump, who said the day after the elections that Love and others were defeated because they refused to embrace him. “Mia Love gave me no love and she lost,” the President said, almost seeming to enjoy the outcome. “Too bad. Sorry about that Mia.” President Trump lists Republicans who didn't embrace him and lost. 'They did very poorly. I'm not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.' 'Mia Love gave me no love and she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that Mia.' pic.twitter.com/ZV7EKcWjLX — CSPAN (@cspan) November 7, 2018 Two weekends after the elections, a small number of races remained undecided – with some that could stretch until after Thanksgiving: FLORIDA SENATE – With a manual recount finishing up, and Florida’s 67 counties waiting through Saturday to deal with any other stray ballots, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) seems headed for victory over Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). This will give the GOP a big victory, and a 2 seat margin in the U.S. Senate. From a statistical/electoral/historical perspective, Scott's defeat of Nelson is pretty much unmatched in recent political history. Beating a swing state opposition party senator without a hint of scandal in a midterm… It's quite impressive. — (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) November 17, 2018 CALIFORNIA 39 – This is the first of six (or maybe seven) undecided House races. After holding the lead for days, Republican Young Kim has now been swamped by late votes coming from both Orange and Los Angeles counties, and now trails Democrat Gil Cisneros by over 3,000 votes. This should complete what is a total GOP wipeout in Orange County, as Democrats would gain six GOP seats in the Golden State. Congressional districts in Orange County, Calif. in 2016 and in 2018 pic.twitter.com/TWRQ1pPzS4 — Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) November 16, 2018 CALIFORNIA 21 – This seat has already been called by the AP and other news organizations for the Republicans, but as the votes keep coming in, Rep. David Valadao’s lead keeps shrinking, and some wonder if he can hold on. This might be a long shot, but it bears watching. It’s hard to fathom that Democrats could gain a seventh seat in California. We've been watching CA-21 like a hawk for more than a week now, and the chance for Democrat T J Cox to catch up to Valadao has gone from remote but intriguingly possibile to plausible. We're moving this one to our uncalled races tab. https://t.co/FeGWU7SsoE — Daniel Donner (@donnermaps) November 17, 2018 UTAH 4 – As mentioned above, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) now has the lead. This would be a big save for Republicans, who have had very little to cheer about in the past 10 days since the elections. In fact, there has been an almost daily drumbeat of Democratic victories each night since then, as they edge closer to a possible pickup of almost 40 House seats, their largest gains since 1974 after Watergate. BREAKING: As expected, #UT04 GOP Rep. Mia Love (R) has pulled into the lead over Ben McAdams (D) by 419 votes. Hard to see how she relinquishes it now. https://t.co/nfsptUdHiN — Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 16, 2018 NEW YORK 22 – This seat can probably be called for the Democrats by the AP and other organizations, as absentee ballot counts on Friday went clearly for Democrat Anthony Brindisi, leaving Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) behind by over 3,000 votes in this northern New York district. This is not a spot where the GOP should have lost. @Redistrict Brindisi lead in NY22 has surged to more 3000 votes! I see no path to victory for Tenney. She's falling further behind as more ballots are counted, that's a losing combination, a larger deficit, and fewer votes left to count. https://t.co/ae1Ny8Osws — Kevin O'Connell (@Kevtoco) November 17, 2018 NEW YORK 27 – Indicted Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) still leads by over 1,000 votes in this western New York district, with one big cache of absentee ballots and provisionals to count next Tuesday around Buffalo. Democrat Nate McMurray has been winning a majority of absentee ballots in recent days in counties where he lost the Election Day vote, making some wonder if he has a chance to win this race at the last minute next week. This is the equivalent of betting a horse that’s maybe 9-1. It might win. Nate McMurray continues to gain ground in counties that he lost to Rep. Chris Collins in. Biggest test will be Tuesday when the Erie County absentee and affidavit votes will be counted. https://t.co/f5nincKkZx — WGRZ (@WGRZ) November 16, 2018 GEORGIA 7 – While the race for Governor is over, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) has a 419 vote edge in this suburban Atlanta district, with all of the votes counted. Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux announced on Friday afternoon that she would ask for a recount. While a recount doesn’t usually switch the outcome, we have certainly seen in Florida and other states in recent days where there are tabulation errors uncovered – so you can’t say this is in the bag for the GOP – but they are favored. News: We will file for a recount of the 7th district race. With a margin of only 419 votes (0.14%), we want to make sure every vote was counted correctly & fairly. It is crucial that every eligible vote is counted & every voice is heard. #GA07 #GAPol — Carolyn Bourdeaux (@Carolyn4GA7) November 16, 2018 TEXAS 23 – Even though she’s behind by just under 1,000 votes, Cindy Ortiz Jones spent the week in Washington going through freshman orientation, but that may not work out for the Texas Democrat, as Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) seems like he’s in good position in this race, leading by 0.5 percent. Hurd’s people on Friday were declaring victory, but it wasn’t clear if Jones would press for any kind of vote review. Republicans are favored to hold on to this border district, but it was much closer than anyone had predicted. Bexar County has finished counting, leaving only six votes left to count (Kinney & Upton). @WillHurd has won by 928 votes, this race is over #TX23 — Connor Pfeiffer (@ConnorPfeiffer) November 16, 2018 Democrats right now have a net gain of 36 seats – they should win at least two of the undecided races left, and have an outside chance at others. Right now, the new Congress stands at 231 Democrats to 198 Republicans, with six seats undecided. One final note – this extended time of vote counting is totally normal. Reporters follow it every two years, but many partisans think there is something amiss.
  • Deputies say Rick Swan’s body was found in a burned travel trailer east of Claremore on Thursday. Investigators tracked down Kevin Foster, the victim’s stepson at his home in Bixby and arrested him for first degree murder and first degree arson. “He certainly denied the fact that he had been in Claremore yesterday,” said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton. “And we know by multiple sources and video that he was.” Sheriff Walton says it was well known that Foster and Swan had been in a feud.
  • A public memorial service is scheduled for country music star Roy Clark. His longtime manager, Jim Halsey, says the service will be at Rhema Bible Church in Broken Arrow on November 21st. Clark passed away yesterday at his Tulsa home after complications from pneumonia. He was 85-years-old. The legend was known for his music and his 24 years on Hee Haw. KRMG will be at the memorial. Tune to NEWS102.3 and AM740 KRMG for the latest.  
  • Ironically, the 2018 edition of the Blue Dome Arts Festival was the largest, best-attended, and by all accounts most successful in the event’s 15-year run. But when Jo and Chris Armstrong saw the sign go up that Santa Fe Square has begun leasing spaces, they knew that was the last nail in the coffin. “That’s great for Tulsa, it’s great for the Blue Dome District.  As a business owner down here, it’ll be great for our business, I’m certain of that. For the festival, it means more construction,” Jo Armstrong told KRMG Friday. More construction, and less space. The hotel which just opened nearby would have closed off a quarter of the space the BDAF once had. And while the Armstrongs considered moving the festival, they decided it just wouldn’t feel right. “If we move it, it’s just not the same. It’s not the Blue Dome Arts Festival. It’s more than the fact that we use the Blue Dome as our office. It’s that it’s this iconic landmark that is the heart of the festival, and it’s important to be near it. We could shrink the festival down and do things very, very differently, but unfortunately still yet the festival is diminished, and it’s only going to get more and more so while this stuff is happening for now, until new things can be figured out... potentially... maybe.” Another complication is the state’s new liquor laws, which no longer allow for “low-point” beer consumers to leave the premises from which it was purchased. That means they would have had to fence in the entire festival, at great cost, and face fines for every individual citation issued. She says while she knows closing the festival is the right decision, that doesn’t make it any easier. “This has been a hard day,” she said. “I’m not gonna lie.”