The Associated Press
PHOENIX Ä The Democratic U.S. Senate primary appeared likely Friday to be headed for a recount, which elections officials said could be the first for a statewide race in Arizona history.
Freshman Rep. Sam Coppersmith led the race with 82,006 to 81,884 for Secretary of State Dick Mahoney, according to the latest vote totals reported by the Secretary of State's Office.
The 122-vote margin is close enough to trigger a state law that requires an automatic recount whenever the margin of victory is less than 200 votes or one-tenth of 1 percent of the vote cast in that race, according to an informal opinion issued by the Attorney General's Office.
The recount will be conducted after the official canvass of the election is signed by the secretary of state on Sept. 26, said Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell.
Purcell said the recount is believed to be the first in a statewide race in Arizona's history. She said Jim Shumway, Maricopa County elections director, has been involved in state elections for more than 30 years and is pretty sure the recount is unprecedented.
The law says the secretary of state is to decide if there should be a recount, and file a special action with the Superior Court, Purcell explained. The judge orders the 15 counties to recount their ballots, she said.
Although the recount is supposed to be done by the secretary of state, it actually will be done in each county because the secretary of state doesn't have the equipment, Purcell said.
She said the vote would be run back through the counties' computers, using a different program than the one used on election night. She said it would take about 24 hours to set up the new program and eight hours to conduct the actual recount.
Karie Cloos, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Grant Woods, said Woods had been asked to oversee the recount because of Mahoney's potential conflict. She said an attorney would be appointed, possibly as early as Monday, to oversee the process.
Details are still somewhat up in the air "because it's something we've never done before," Cloos said.
Purcell said her office also would recount the votes in the Republican primary for state representative in the 27th District, nearly all of which is in Tempe, at the same time the senate votes are being retabulated.
In that race, Laura Knaperek was the clear winner with 5,113 votes. But the second spot was up for grabs with Michael Gardner leading John MacDonald by 32 votes, 4,554 to 4,522. All three candidates are from Tempe.
The automatic recount is triggered in legislative districts when the final margin is fewer than 50 votes or one-tenth of 1 percent, Purcell said.
She said her major concern is getting both races completed in time for the Nov. 8 general election. Absentee voting for the general election begins Oct. 6, which is only three weeks away, Purcell said.
"Parts of the ballots are at the printer's now and all of it should be," Purcell said. "The poor printer is about to have a stroke."
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