Senate race swings as Arizona ballot count grinds on
Every election, it takes weeks for Arizona to count its ballots. But as the Democrat in the tight U.S. Senate race there jumped into the lead in the latest results some Republicans have raised baseless allegations of fraud.
The most prominent is President Trump. On Friday he suggested there was something sinister about “Democrats” adding to their tallies. “Now in Arizona, all of a sudden, out of the wilderness, they find a lot of votes.”
There is no evidence of anything unusual going on in the Arizona vote-counting — and no elected Republican officials in the state have cried foul. It’s plausible that the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s opponent, Republican Rep. Martha McSally, could jump back into the lead in coming days. That wouldn’t be suspicious, either.
Blame the fact that Arizonans like to vote early, by mail. That sounds like a contradiction, but a mailed-in ballot requires more work for Arizona elections officials. That’s because state law requires the envelope to be sealed and signed, and for elections officials to match each signature to the one on file with the voter’s registration before even opening the envelope. In this election, that’s about 1.7 million individual signatures that had to be confirmed, one-by-one. A total of about 2.3 million votes were cast in Arizona.
The problem comes in the final days when the ballots flood election offices. Voters can also drop off sealed mail ballots on election day, adding to the pile. Those ballots can’t be counted that day because the elections office is busy setting up and administering in-person voting.
“Arizona takes elections seriously — from the poll workers to the county elections officials, and the Secretary of State’s office,” Michelle Reagan, the state’s Republican secretary of state, said Friday. “Everybody is working diligently to tabulate all of the election results in a manner that Arizonans can be proud of and, most importantly, trust the results.”
It normally takes more than a week to count all the ballots in Arizona. The recorder in the state’s biggest county — Maricopa, where 60 percent of votes are cast — Adrian Fontes, expects the counting to be done by Nov. 15.
Republicans had been bracing themselves for Sinema to take the lead from McSally on Thursday night because the ballots processed then were more favorable to the Democrat. Early voting started on Oct. 10 and for more than a week Republicans held a clear edge in Maricopa County. But the gap began to narrow as election day approached and more Democrats turned in their ballots.