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Congressman Files Bid to Stop Certification of Loss

(CN) - On the brink of losing his seat to a Republican challenger by a mere 161 votes, U.S. Congressman Ron Barber filed a federal lawsuit Monday to stop officials from certifying the election for Arizona's second congressional district.

Barber claims that at least 133 legal ballots remain uncounted, and that the Pima County and Cochise County Boards of Supervisors "have expressly refused to investigate their circumstances or to count their votes."

Barber, who took over the Tucson-area seat from Gabrielle Giffords after she was injured in a 2011 mass shooting, lost the election to Republican Martha McSally in a hard-fought campaign that drew millions of dollars in out-of-state money.

Separated from victory by a thin margin and facing deadlines for certification, Barber and three district residents sued Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett and others, seeking to stop them from making the election official "until the contested ballots have been counted and are reflected in all other official totals of the votes for the 2014 General Election for all races for which the voters casting contested ballots are eligible to vote."

The lawsuit states that the Boards of Supervisors for Pima County and Cochise County have already refused to count the ballots in question, and that Bennett is set to certify the election on Dec. 1, despite myriad issues with the count.

Barber alleges that election officials improperly rejected some early and provisional ballots, including those of residents who had moved within Pima County since the last election and others with an alleged "signature mismatch."

"Perhaps most notably, although Arizona law does not impose any deadline by which a voter must present evidence that election officials have improperly rejected his or her ballot due to a purported 'signature mismatch,' officials in Pima County and Cochise County arbitrarily imposed their own deadlines," the complaint states. "And those arbitrary deadlines are entirely different. Pima County refused to allow voters to cure signature mismatches after noon on November 8, and then changed the deadline to close of business on November 9. Cochise County outright refused to provide voters with any opportunity to resolve supposed 'mismatches' after the polls closed on Election Day. Treating similarly-situated voters differently based simply on where they reside is anathema to a fair election."

The plaintiffs are represented by Daniel Barr of Perkins Coie in Phoenix.

"Secretary of State Bennett is no stranger to competitive elections, and he knows that Arizonans who registered to vote and showed up to vote on Election Day deserve to have their voices heard," said Kyle Quinn-Quesada, campaign manager for Ron Barber for Congress, in a statement. "Mistakes happen in every election, and in a race this close, the right thing to do is to rectify those mistakes by counting every lawful vote."

McSally declared victory in contest on Nov. 12, while conceding that a recount was likely.

"All ballots are now counted and the voters have made their choice," she said, adding that "After nearly three years, some twenty million dollars in ads, and two campaigns, it's time to come together."

"While we still have a recount to go, we expect similar results and will provide the necessary oversight to ensure accurate results," she said.

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