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Republicans inch closer on Saturday but still trail in key races

Republicans inch closer on Saturday but still trail in key races

A voting sign points voters in the right direction to drop off ballots in Phoenix, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A Saturday night ballot update from Maricopa County helped Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and GOP Attorney General nominee Abe Hamadeh tighten their races, but the Republican candidates will need to secure greater shares of the remaining votes to win. 

Lake earned 51.8% and Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs took 48.2% of the roughly 86,000 ballots reported by the county at 6 p.m. on Saturday. That left Hobbs with a 1.6% lead and just shy of 35,000 more votes than Lake. 

Hamadeh earned 52.4% while his Democratic opponent Kris Mayes took 47.6%, leaving Mayes with a 1% lead and a margin of about 21,000 votes. 

In the closest statewide race, Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Tom Horne inched to within 0.4%, and less than 10,000 votes, of his Democratic opponent, incumbent Kathy Hoffman. Horne took 52% of Saturday’s votes from Maricopa County to Hoffman’s 48%. 

The Saturday update leaves 195,000 ballots left to count in Maricopa County and 268,000 remaining in the state. About 53,000 votes are left in Pima County. A “very large majority” of Saturday’s update consisted of ballots deposited in drop boxes on Election Day, Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates said in a news conference on Saturday. 

Prior to Maricopa County’s ballot drop on Saturday, the Secretary of State reported an estimated 347,996 votes left to be counted around the state. 

For Lake to overcome what was a 37,743-vote lead for Hobbs at 5 p.m., she needed to earn 55.4% of the remaining votes. For Hamadeh to overtake Mayes’ then-25,370 vote lead, he needed to bring in 53.6% of outstanding votes. Horne, facing just a 12,750-vote deficit against Hoffman, needed 51.8% of the remaining votes to win. 

After the Maricopa County update on Saturday Evening, Lake needs 56.5%, Hamadeh 54.0% and Horne 51.8% of remaining ballots to win their races. 

A 75,000-vote dump from Maricopa County on Friday was unexpectedly favorable for Democrats, and led to the Associated Press calling the U.S. Senate race for Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly and the Secretary of State race for Democrat Adrian Fontes. 

But Republican candidates in other close contests had reason to remain hopeful heading into Saturday. 

That’s because voting centers in South Phoenix, which skews Democratic, were overrepresented in the Friday vote batch, according to reporting by Garrett Archer of ABC 15. A greater proportion of outstanding ballots, then, were expected to come from Republican-friendly areas of the county. 

And the Saturday batch was more favorable to GOP candidates, but it might not have been favorable enough.  

Of the Republican candidates for governor, Attorney General and state Superintendent, Horne is the only one whose share of the Saturday night ballot dump exceeded what he’ll need to win his race. 

The tight margins in some contests could lead to recounts. Earlier this year, a law sponsored by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, increased the threshold for a mandatory recount from 0.1% to 0.5%. As of Saturday night, the Superintendent of Public Instruction Race is within that margin. 

Any recount initiated under that law wouldn’t begin until after the results are officially certified later this month. 

As counting continued for a fifth consecutive day in Maricopa County, discontented demonstrators showed up at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center, known as MCTEC. 

Around noon on Nov. 12, roughly three dozen demonstrators walked along the sidewalk near the ballot tabulation center chanting, “Count the legal votes,” according to video captured by several TV news. Many protestors carried signs supporting Lake, others carried Arizona and American flags and one man held up a plywood sign that read, “Hobbs is a cheat.” 

“I think the vote count isn’t fair because they’re making us wait a long time… they haven’t counted Republican votes, only Democratic ones,” one woman told Univision reporter Claudia Ramos. 

The protest was promoted on Steve Bannon’s War Room show on Friday, and later boosted by Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff. 

“Patriots Rise Up to rally tomorrow Saturday noon at the Maricopa County Elections office… to pray for the Light to shine in the darkness and for His truth to be revealed,” Rogers tweeted on Friday afternoon. 

The demonstration led to some rebukes on Saturday from county officials, who have until now largely refrained from directly addressing right-wing figures who have complained about the pace of vote counting and insinuated wrongdoing in online posts. 

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said at Saturday’s news conference that he had stepped up the law enforcement presence at MCTEC after seeing Rogers’ tweet. “It’s important to have an adult in the room when others are acting like children,” he said. 

And in a tweet thread posted on Saturday, the county offered an elementary-level explanation of the vote-counting process. 

“Voters: All legal votes will be counted. Your vote will count equally whether it is reported first, last, or somewhere in between. Thank you for participating,” the post from the county twitter account said. “Candidates: All legal votes will be counted, including votes for you. If you have the most votes in the final tally, you will be elected. If you do not have the most votes, you will have lost your election.” 

But Gates also said there’s something he agrees with the demonstrators about. 

“I think I’m on same page with the people saying, ‘Count the legal votes.’ That’s what I’ve been saying,” he said at the news conference, before praising the crowd for remaining peaceful and dispersing after the event.