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Hobbs: Vote counting in Arizona may take day or two

PHOENIX — If you think you’re going to bed on election night knowing who was chosen, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has a bit of advice.

Think again.

Hobbs on Wednesday sought to tamp down expectations of instant results — or even final tallies within a day or two — even with the automated process of balloting and counting. She detailed all of the things that have to happen after the polls close at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

That includes not just the regular tabulation process that occurs at each precinct but also handling what could be a flood of early ballots that were not mailed in but are dropped off at polling stations. They cannot be counted until after the regular voting-day results are in.

Then there’s the fact that state law gives anyone whose early ballot signature does not match what’s on file up to five business days after the election — meaning the following Tuesday — to come in and fix it. A similar deadline exists for those who are handed “provisional” ballots because of some missing information or questions about their voting status.

Then there’s the required hand-count audit to physically compare what voters marked on their ballots with what the machines have tallied.

All that even assumes the polls shut as scheduled. State law requires them to remain open so that anyone who was in line at 7 p.m. actually gets to cast a ballot.

And then there’s the possibility of mechanical breakdowns or other issues.

“The election doesn’t end on Election Day,” she said.

Hobbs knows something about that.

Two years ago the Associated Press declared on election night that Republican Steve Gaynor had been elected, a call the wire service later had to rescind as new counts, particularly of late-received early votes, erased Gaynor’s lead. In the end, it took 10 days to show she was the victor as Hobbs won by close to 20,000 votes out of more than 2.4 million ballots cast.

That race, coupled with a close contest for U.S. Senate between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, led to some charges of fraud which were never substantiated.

“That contributed to people not trusting the results of that election,” Hobbs said.

This year might only be worse, with even President Trump stoking the fears that election results will not be accurate, with a particular focus on late-counted early ballots changing the election-night results.

That’s one of the reasons that Hobbs is reaching out now to create more realistic expectations of getting final results.

“These things take time,” she said.

How much time?

Legally speaking, counties have 20 days after the election to finalize the tally. And the results are not considered final until the formal statewide canvass which is set for Dec. 3.

The concerns about election integrity also raise questions about possible voter intimidation.

“We’re certainly staying on top of any credible threats that exist,” Hobbs said.

It is illegal under state law to use force or threats to compel someone to vote or refrain from voting. And Hobbs said there are very strict rules for what happens not only at polling places but within the 75-foot perimeter around them in which any form of election activities are prohibited.

Less clear is what can occur outside that line.

“If folks are armed, if they’re in any way indicating intentionally intimidating behavior, it’s not allowed,” Hobbs said.

“The poll workers are trained in terms of responding,” she continued. “If folks witness this, you should report it to the marshal or inspector inside the polling place.”

Lynn Constable, the Yavapai County elections director, said most of these problems are pretty easy to resolve. In fact, Constable said, she’s done it herself.

“I go out and I put on an election vest and I tell people to ‘knock it off,’ “ she said.

“Sometimes they just need to see that authoritative figure,” Constable continued. “If I can’t go and stop it, then I will call on law enforcement to back me up.”

But she said law enforcement at polling places is not the answer, saying the presence of police can “create its own problems.”

That’s not just her assessment.

“The continued presence of uniformed law enforcement personnel at a voting location, whether in or outside the 75-foot limit, may have the effect of intimidating voters,” Hobbs is advising county election officials in formal guidance being prepared for this election. “Counties will balance this potentially intimidating effect with the need to preserve the peace and respond to emergencies.”

The other potential form of intimidation is taking photographs of those who show up to vote.

Hobbs said that is strictly prohibited within the 75-foot limit. That’s also why, unlike some states, there are no Election Day photos of candidates casting their own ballots.

“Further, much like the open display of firearms, taking photos or videos outside the 75-foot limit may have an intimidating effect on others entering or exiting the voting location,” she is advising county election officials. “In particular, filming voters based on race, ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation is inappropriate.”

McSally joins Shedd, others in GOP campaign gathering at Casa Grande home

CASA GRANDE — Sen. Martha McSally stopped in Casa Grande Wednesday afternoon, along with other local Republican candidates, to answer questions and encourage supporters to vote.

The event was held in the backyard of a private home in Mission Royale with more than 40 people gathered under the shade of a pergola. Attendees had their choice to wear a mask or not and a box of masks was available for those who forgot one.

“We’re ground zero for Trump to get four more years,” McSally said. “This is all about the Left trying to get power and they can’t do it without Arizona.”

She said that the current version of the Democratic Party is much more extreme than past versions. The Democratic Party is trying to appeal to moderates and independents but if its representatives get into office, especially Congress or the presidency, residents can expect a radical left agenda that may include Medicare for All, gun control and more regulation.

“We have to fight for every last vote,” she said. “Biden’s not a moderate. The radical Left has taken over the (Democratic) party.”

McSally said she and the Republican Party, including President Donald Trump, have a record of delivering their promises to Arizonans and Americans. She pointed to recent tax cuts for middle class families and pointed out that household incomes and savings were up across all demographics. She and the Republican Party wanted to continue to meet those promises including more tax cuts, bringing home jobs from China, finishing the border wall, making sure troops received the funding and support they needed and confirming U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

McSally said she expected a call to bring Barrett’s nomination to a vote sometime this week, but she didn’t expect a vote to actually be held and counted for at least a couple of weeks as the Senate argues the nomination back and forth. She pledged to stay in Washington, D.C. until Barrrett was confirmed.

McSally also said she supported a second, more targeted pandemic relief plan, with funding for specific industries such as tourism and airlines, that have been hit hard and are continuing to suffer. It would also include funding for residents who still need unemployment assistance, at a lower rate, $300 rather than $600 a week, than the first pandemic relief bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, funded.

She knocked the proposed pandemic relief bills that have been proposed by Democrats, saying the bills were designed to bail out states like California that had not planned properly or used their funding wisely. Democrat bills also wanted to release prisoners over the age of 50 and provide relief for people who had entered the U.S. illegally, she said. They also wanted to allow states to continue to hold lockdowns on businesses and schools in order to combat the virus.

She warned that if Democrats take over, the party will bring a lot of radical changes to the federal government that will be hard to roll back.

Democrats, including her opponent Mark Kelly, want to pack the U.S. Supreme Court, they want to install activist judges that legislate from the bench instead of upholding the law as it is written, McSally said. If Democrats pack the Supreme Court it will destroy the court and the country.

Democrats also want to bring statehood to Washington, D.C. so they can gain two additional seats in the Senate, she said.

The Democratic Party is also trying to scare voters with ads stating that she supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of protections for people who have pre-existing conditions, McSally said.

She said while she’s not for the Affordable Care Act, she is for protecting people with pre-existing conditions. She just doesn’t believe that the Affordable Care Act is the only way to do it.

McSally said she’s heard too many stories of small business owners, the self-employed and families who are falling through the cracks because they can’t afford health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.

Medicare for All also doesn’t work, she said. If Medicare for All was put in place the entire Medicare system would collapse and the country would end up with socialized medicine, with long wait lines for care.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s Public Option plan also doesn’t work, McSally said. Allowing the government to offer plans in the public health insurance market would undermine the private health insurance industry, causing it to collapse. Without private insurance companies, residents would no longer have choice in what kind of health care coverage they wanted or what they wanted to pay for it.

Instead, McSally said, small businesses should be able to pool together to cover their health insurance costs.

She also continued to hammer Kelly on his business ties to China.

“I’m standing up to China,” she said. “He’s bought and paid for by China.”

McSally encouraged supporters to get out and vote and encourage others to do the same.

“We want to win decisively,” she said.

Tiffany Shedd, the Republican candidate for Arizona’s First Congressional District was also at the rally. She also pointed out that her race was one of the most important in the state and the nation.

Shedd accused incumbent Tom O’Halleran, a Democrat, of voting with U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi 95% of the time.

“I don’t think Pelosi is a good congressman for District 1,” Shedd said to chuckles.

The Democratic Party and its supporters have spent millions of dollars on attack ads against her that make no sense, she said, saying that she voted against the Affordable Care Act or against protections for pre-existing conditions, when she’s never had a vote in Congress.

There was one ad that did disturb and anger her, Shedd said. It was an ad stating that she had or would vote to repeal protections for pre-existing conditions.

“He knows that’s not true,” she said of O’Halleran. “I will never pull the rug out from anyone.”

Shedd pointed out that her daughter is a Type 1 diabetic, which is considered a pre-existing condition by many health insurance companies. She described the dread and fear she felt when her daughter suddenly became sick at the age of 6 and almost died before her diabetes was treated.

She also described how her family lost their health insurance coverage after the Affordable Care Act passed because they could no longer afford the premiums under their existing coverage. They were eventually able to find other coverage.

She also battered O’Halleran’s record on securing the border, Medicare for All, supporting law enforcement officers and the Second Amendment.

Rep. David Cook, Sen. Frank Pratt and Rep. T.J. Shope, who are running for the Arizona House and Senate District 8 seats, also attended the event and gave their reasons for running and encouraged supporters to vote.

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Combs High School shut down until Oct. 27 due to COVID-19 outbreak

SAN TAN VALLEY — A school that was at the epicenter of the fight over reopening classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been shut down due to an outbreak on campus.

The Pinal County Public Health Department announced Wednesday that Combs High School would be closed immediately due to multiple students or staff testing positive for COVID-19. The earliest the school can reopen is Oct. 27.

Until then, all classes, activities and sports are canceled, including the homecoming festivities. All other schools in the J.O. Combs Unified School District will remain open.

All Combs High School students will be utilizing virtual learning and are told to quarantine for two weeks following their most recent possible exposure, which the county determined happened Tuesday. Any student who feels any symptoms of potential illness should seek medical help.

The Combs district was the first in Pinal County to return to in-person learning, which caused a significant amount of controversy. The start date had to be pushed back because staff called in sick in protest of what they called a hasty return that put the health of everyone at the school in danger. School started in person on Sept. 8.

“I feel for (the team),” Combs football coach Travis Miller tweeted on Wednesday. “We followed mask and social distancing rules. Three months, still no cases. Now sitting two weeks, no practice, no games for issues with non-football players. We practiced while school was virtual before, not this time. Stay focused and ready.”

The Combs football team was scheduled to travel to Cottonwood to face Mingus on Friday and to host Phoenix Arcadia the following week. Both games will now be canceled.

This is the second school in San Tan Valley to be shut down this week. The county closed San Tan Foothills on Sunday night for almost two weeks under similar circumstances.