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Dems expand leads in key races, Election Day drop-offs could shift momentum

An election worker tabulates ballots inside the Maricopa County Recorders Office, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Democrats running for key statewide offices expanded narrow leads over their Republican opponents Thursday. But the 78,000 votes that Maricopa County tallied today were early ballots received on Saturday through Monday, not early ballots dropped off on Election Day, which could favor GOP candidates. 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs speaks on the set of “Arizona Horizon” prior to a televised interview with host Ted Simons in Phoenix, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs earned 54.8% of the batch and added almost 7,500 votes to her lead over Republican nominee Kari Lake, bringing the margin to about 26,900 votes. Hobbs held 50.7% of the votes to Lake’s 49.3%. 

Maricopa County’s results were posted to the county website shortly after 8 p.m. and added to vote totals on the Secretary of State’s website around 8:45 p.m. 

Democratic Attorney General candidate Kris Mayes continues to strengthen her lead over Republican Abraham Hamadeh. Mayes is 16,414 votes ahead, but the margin remains thin at 50.4% to 49.6%. Yesterday, the lead in the Attorney General’s race flip-flopped, with Hamadeh briefly overtaking Mayes, before the Democrat regained her advantage later in the day. 

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Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas on Aug. 5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Another two Democrats padded larger leads. U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly increased his margin over Republican Blake Masters to 115,000 votes, more than five percentage points. Secretary of State candidate Adrian Fontes boosted his lead to more than five percentage points and 109,000 votes.  

Hobbs, Mayes, Kelly and Fontes all earned between 54% and 57% of the Thursday-night Maricopa ballot drop. 

And Kathy Hoffman, the Democratic incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction, flipped her race to take a narrow, 3,852-vote lead over GOP candidate Tom Horne. 

Incumbent Republican Treasurer Kim Yee held onto an 11-percentage point lead over Democrat Martin Quezada. 

Arizona Department of Education Superintendent Kathy Hoffman speaks during a news conference in Phoenix, July 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File)

Maricopa’s update followed updates throughout the day from other counties including Pima, Yavapai, Santa Cruz and Cochise. 

More than 2 million votes have now been counted across the state, which translates to almost 50% voter turnout. 

But there are still around half a million votes left to count, according to information from the Secretary of State. More than 300,000 of those are in Maricopa County and more than 100,000 in Pima County. Greenlee is the only county that’s already tabulated all votes and processed all provisional ballots. 

At a news conference on Thursday, Maricopa County officials said they expect to publish counts of about 60,000 to 80,000 ballots per night going through the weekend and into next week. 

Supervisor Bill Gates said that election workers have been putting in 14- to 18-hour days. He attributed the ongoing delay to 290,000 early ballots dropped off on election day, a figure that shot up 70% compared to the 2020 election.  

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Bill Gates (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

“The goal posts have changed,” Gates said.  

With tight margins in the Governor and Attorney General races, those 290,000 early Election Day ballots could determine the outcome, and analysts are speculating about whether they’ll skew towards Republicans or Democrats. 

Democrats were heavily favored in early voting, after Republican candidates told their voters not to put ballots in the mail, alleging that mail-in and early voting is more vulnerable to fraud. In person, Election Day voting broke strongly for Republican candidates up and down the ticket. 

The Election Day drop-offs are something of a third category – one that’s gone for different parties in the past. In 2018, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate Democrat, won that category in her race against Republican Martha McSally. But in 2020, former President Donald Trump won more votes from Election Day drop-offs than President Joe Biden. 

Paul Bentz, a pollster for the GOP firm Highground, said the additional mail-in ballots reported on Thursday might not provide much insight into where the races are headed. 

“It would be expected that they’d act like early voters and lean towards the Democratic candidates … I’m not if sure they will really tell us much more about the drop-offs,” he said in a text message on Thursday afternoon, before the most recent update. 

A smaller segment of ballots seems likely to favor Republicans. Due to Election Day equipment problems, about 17,000 voters deposited their ballots in “Box 3” after tabulating machines couldn’t read the ballots. Since those were cast in person on Election Day, they will likely aid GOP candidates. 

The county is processing ballots affected by printing errors on Election Day and they weren’t included in Thursday’s numbers. Today, election workers started running those ballots through the tabulators at Maricopa County Elections Department. 

Several Republicans have complained about the apparently slow pace of counting, which has left the fate of key races undecided more than 48 hours after the close of polls. Some have compared Arizona to Florida, where winners were declared more quickly 

“They count ballots real slow here in Arizona,” Lake said in an interview on Fox Business.  

Gates said that’s in part because of the changing political landscape in Arizona. 

“Here’s the issue, we have so many close races (that) everyone’s still paying attention,” he said on Thursday. “Those other states like Florida, those races were blowouts, nobody’s paying attention.” 

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Hamadeh closes gap on Mayes in AG race (access required)

Kris Mayes, Democratic candidate for Attorney General is now neck and neck with Republican nominee Abe Hamadeh, with 50.1% of the vote to Hamadeh’s 49.9%.