Bernie Sanders' lawyer compares Arizona primary to Florida's 2000 fiasco

Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign attorney was the surprise speaker at today's Maricopa County board review of Arizona's election fiasco.

PHOENIX - Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign might challenge the results of Arizona's presidential primary, a vote that Sanders' attorney compared to the fiasco in Florida in 2000 after the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

"I was in Florida in 2000, beginning the morning after the election, and this election is pretty close to as bad as that one in terms of how it was conducted and the mess in the aftermath," said Chris Sautter, an attorney for Sanders' presidential campaign.

Sautter attended the Maricopa County Board meeting Wednesday where the county's primary results were approved and the primary day voting mess was reviewed.

Several Maricopa County polling places closed after midnight March 23 because of hours-long waits to vote in the primary election that was held March 22.

Recorder Helen Purcell, the county's top elections official for the last 27 years, took the blame for her decision to cut the number of polling places for the primary by 70 percent from the 2012 primary.

"I screwed up," Purcell said after the vote.

Although Hillary Clinton defeated Sanders in the Arizona Democratic primary, by a margin of 57 percent to 41 percent, Sanders could collect more delegates if his vote totals climb. Clinton won 44 delegates in Arizona to Sanders' 30.

The Sanders campaign is questioning the huge number of provisional ballots that were tossed out by the county recorder's office.

"We believe there's a possibility the delegate count could change if some of these provisional ballots are counted," Sautter told reporters after the County Board meeting.

The county recorder's office reported that 20,008 provisional ballots were declared invalid out of more than 24,000 cast. Virtually all of the invalid provisional ballots were cast by voters who were ineligible because their party  registration was "independent." Independents were not allowed to vote in the primary.

Some voters have said the county's records for their registration was wrong. Secretary of State Michele Reagan, the state's top elections official, said at a hearing Monday that the party registration for one of her staffers was listed incorrectly.

Sautter questioned why the Maricopa County Board, which approved the 60 polling places in February, would accept Purcell's explanation for what went wrong. 

"The board apparently has accepted the word of the same administrators who administered this debacle," he said.

During the public comment period Wednesday, Sautter asked the board to delay approving the final election results. Board members ignored his request.

"We believe there are still unanswered questions." Sautter said.

The final statewide vote canvass is April 4. A county lawyer said the vote could be legally challenged after that canvass.


Copyright 2016 KPNX


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