PHOENIX ((DailyNews)) — Arizona’s largest county on Friday will begin releasing the results of ballots dropped off at polling places on Election Day, providing clues about whether Republicans can overtake Democrats in critical races for U.S. Senate and governor.
With half a million ballots remaining to be counted statewide, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters would need to win more than 60% of them to defeat Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. In the race for governor, Republican Kari Lake would need to win just over half to overtake Democrat Katie Hobbs.
By Friday night, Kelly led Masters by more than 5 percentage points, while Hobbs was ahead of Lake by more than 1 point.
Republicans including Lake, who are convinced the remaining ballots strongly favor them, have been pressuring election officials in Maricopa County, which includes the majority of Arizona voters, to speed up the count. County Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Gates, a Republican, said the team is working as fast as it can, but it takes time to follow the detailed steps required under Arizona law.
“We’re doing things the right way. We’re not doing anything wrong at all,” Gates told reporters at the county elections office Friday. “That someone from here would suggest that we are doing something wrong, that’s frustrating.”
County officials have said they were inundated with far more early ballots dropped off on Election Day than they’ve ever before had to process. Voters delivered 292,000 early ballots on Election Day, an increase of 70% over the previous record from 2020.
Counting those ballots is time-consuming because officials have to verify that each one came from a legitimate voter, a process that couldn’t begin until Wednesday.
Gates said that Maricopa County will release results from 80,000 ballots Friday evening and that more than half will be from the crucial group of early ballots received on Election Day. The report will also include fewer than 10,000 ballots received before Tuesday and “a good amount” of the roughly 17,000 ballots cast at vote centers on Tuesday, which could not be counted immediately because of a printing issue.
The Tucson area’s Pima County also had a sizable chunk of votes left to count. Together, the state’s two urban counties account for 90% of the remaining ballots, according to data from the secretary of state.
Either party could clinch control of the U.S. Senate by winning Arizona and either the outstanding Nevada Senate contest, which remained too early to call Friday, or next month’s runoff in Georgia.
Democrats think it’s possible that the remaining ballots in Arizona are much less favorable to the GOP and will allow some or all of their candidates to maintain their leads.
By Friday afternoon, Democrats led the secretary of state contest by 5 points and the attorney general race by just under 1 point. In two of the state’s uncalled House contests, the candidates were separated by 2 points or less. In a third, Democratic incumbent Greg Stanton had a much more comfortable lead of 14 points.
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