- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - A recount of nearly 220,000 ballots cast in the 2nd Congressional District will begin later this week after the results of the Nov. 4 election were formally certified on Monday.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne signed the official election canvass in a formal ceremony at the Capitol, in what may be their final appearance together before all three leave office next month. Because the vote difference between Democratic Rep. Ron Barber and Republican Martha McSally is less than one-tenth of one percent, lawyers for the state are getting a judge’s order for Cochise and Pima counties to conduct a recount. Barber trails McSally by 161 votes.

That machine recount will happen over the next two weeks, and a random hand count of five percent of the precincts will be done as well to ensure that the machine count is accurate, said Brad Nelson, Pima County’ elections director. If those hand recounts don’t match the machine counts within a certain amount, another five percent of the ballots will be hand-counted, until the variance between the machine and hand counts is within legal margins.

“In theory we could end up hand counting the entire election if we continue to be outside the variance,” Nelson said.

The results of the recounts will be kept secret until they are presented to the judge, which is expected on Dec. 16.

The election canvass formalized Republican Doug Ducey’s election as the state’s incoming governor, and all other statewide and legislative offices.

Barber has been trying to get more than 130 rejected provisional ballots counted, but was rebuffed by a federal judge on Thanksgiving day. Now that the canvass is complete, he could file an election contest challenging the results.

Barber’s campaign manager didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment on a possible further legal challenge Monday.

Bennett said the county elections officials followed state law and the state elections procedures manual in determining which ballots should be rejected, and he said the judge made the right call. He also noted that more than the 133 rejected 2nd District votes would have been affected if the judge backed Barber.

“I think the judge’s ruling reflects the fact that the procedures for handling ballots are decided before an election, not after an election,” Bennett said. “Because if you wanted to try to handle those 133 ballots that were raised by the Barber campaign in a different manner you would also have to be dealing with about 8,400 other provisional ballots around the state that ultimately didn’t get counted.”

Brewer said she understood Barber’s reasons for the legal challenges, but believe no mistakes were made.

“I think anybody that runs for an election, and if they’re that close, they’re very anxious to have every piece of paper counted,” Brewer said. “But the rules of procedure are all written and they were all adopted and I assure you those county officials will do everything to make absolutely positive that every vote is counted. I don’t question their integrity or their methods.”

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