- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 6, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A judge denied Tuesday the first attempted roadblock to an official recount in the hotly contested Republican primary in a Phoenix-area congressional district.

Unofficial results from the Aug. 30 primary for the 5th Congressional District had state Senate President Andy Biggs leading former internet executive Christine Jones by only nine votes out of some 85,500 votes cast in the four-way race.

Lawyers for Jones’ campaign asked for a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to order county officials to delay certification of the results and take other steps to correct alleged errors.

Jones’ campaign contends the county should have counted votes from at least 300 eligible voters who cast ballots that weren’t counted for various reasons and that some improperly identified people may have been allowed to vote.

Reasons why eligible voters’ ballots weren’t counted included that they cast provisional ballots in the wrong precinct and their signatures on early ballot affidavits were incorrectly rejected, according to Jones’ attorneys.

Judge Joshua Rogers denied Jones’ request for a temporary restraining order and scheduled a Thursday morning hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction.

The GOP nominee in the heavily Republican district in southeastern Phoenix suburbs will almost certainly replace Republican Rep. Matt Salmon, who is retiring.

At Tuesday afternoon’s court hearing, an attorney for Biggs told Rogers that Jones’ campaign was creating chaos and disruption in an attempt to win the election.

Kory Langhofer added that he’s certain the judge would rule Thursday “like most courts have around the country” and reject Jones’ argument.

“If there is a defect in the ballot that weren’t fixed before the polls close, they are unfixable. They can’t be counted,” Langhofer said.

Biggs on Saturday had welcomed the unofficial results, saying he would start focusing on winning the general election.

The recount would follow state certification of the results during the official canvass of the primary election results scheduled next week.

Biggs had 25,228 votes and Jones 25,219 while two other candidates each had about 17,000 votes, according to the unofficial results released early Saturday after more than four days of counting.

Because the nine-vote margin would be well under thresholds set by state law, the state would go to court after the canvass to request permission to conduct the recount.

County election officials for several days would have election machines again scan voters’ paper ballots, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Bartholomew of the county elections office.

She said workers would recount ballots cast by voters at polling places in the district on election day plus all early ballots cast countywide. Early ballots aren’t segregated by district, she said.

Bartholomew said only the 5th District results would be tabulated for the recount.

Recounts in Arizona congressional races are rare because voter registrations in most districts favor one party or another, so winners typically notch large margins of victory.

However, the competitive 2nd District that includes part of Tucson and southeastern Arizona saw a recount as recently as 2014 when now-U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican, widened her margin to 167 votes, up from 161.

McSally defeated then-incumbent Ron Barber, a Democrat, for a seat formerly held by Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, who left office after being seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in January 2011.

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