Judge orders recount in CD 5 race; Jones seeks investigation

Andy Biggs leads Christine Jones by only 16 votes in the Republican primary race in Congressional District 5. A judge has ordered a recount. (Photo by Gage Skidmore via CreativeCommons)

PHOENIX – The race to represent U.S. Congressional District 5 continues after a Maricopa County judge Tuesday ordered a recount of votes in the Republican primary.

The latest developments in the election drama include a request by trailing candidate Christine Jones for a state investigation into county voting “anomalies.”

The recount will take two to three days, according to Matthew Roberts, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office. Only 16 votes separate candidates Jones and Andy Biggs, with both candidates dueling over disputed votes cast in the Aug. 30 election.

Superior Court Judge Randall Warner ordered the county Board of Supervisors to conduct the recount, test the accuracy of its automatic tabulating system and give the public at least a 48-hour notice of the test.

Jones, who is losing the coveted Congressional seat based on official canvasses by Arizona and county officials, has signaled the possibility of a legal fight.

Christine Jones' attorneys have asked state officials to investigate the vote tally in Maricopa County for the Republican primary in Congressional District 5. (Photo by Alexa Stueckrath/Cronkite News)

Christine Jones is in a tight race with Andy Biggs in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District. (Photo by Alexa Stueckrath/Cronkite News)

An investigation is needed to “ensure the CD 5 election is conducted in a fair, orderly and honest manner and to maintain the public’s trust and confidence in the election system,” the letter says.

A surge in votes that emerged in Friday’s count in the four-way race was counter to a previous trend favorable to Jones, an attorney and consultant for Jones wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Michelle Reagan and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. That was the same day another Superior Court judge ordered a recount of 18 disputed provisional votes in CD 5, which lead to Bigg’s 16-vote lead.

Other voting “anomalies” included the drop in votes for Jones in Chandler precincts and a large number of “over votes,” attorneys Joseph Kanefield and Brett Johnson wrote.

Biggs’ consultant and attorney Kory Langhofer responded that Jones’ camp misunderstands the way votes are counted and that over votes have happened in previous elections.

“Overall, we do not shrink from any neutral counting of the votes — but on the evidence before us, we are not persuaded that there is any reason to believe the first count was unreliable or should be subject to specially drafted rules or procedures,” Langhofer says in a letter to Reagan and Brnovich.

Roberts said he expects litigation to emerge in the race.

An automatic recount in state or local elections is required when only a few votes separate a win or loss on a ballot. In the case of CD 5, where a seat opened when Republican Congressman Matt Salmon decided to retire, the margin between Biggs and Jones is less than or equal to one-tenth of one percent of the total votes cast for the two candidates, so state law requires an automatic recount.

Biggs has 25,240 votes and Jones has 25,224 votes, according to the state canvass.