The Daily Agenda: We've told you this
Counting takes time, but you already knew that ... Where the big races stand ... And don't buy an owl, period.
By the third day after the election, the biggest question here inevitably becomes: Why is this taking so long?
Elections officials and the media have been explaining why before, during and after elections for years now, emphasizing that the time it takes to count is normal for Arizona.
The main culprit is early ballots dropped off on Election Day, and this November, the number of people who voted that way eclipsed even the 2020 general election. Workers have to verify the signatures on all of those ballots and give voters the opportunity to “cure” their signature if need be.
We allow voters to do these day-of drop-offs because we’ve favored voter access and convenience over the time it takes to count results. Like all parts of elections (and life), there are trade-offs. We wouldn’t be surprised if the law that allows people to drop off mailed ballots on Election Day comes under attack soon.
Interestingly, there is a new law that could speed up counting, yet still allow people to drop off their early ballots on Election Day. The law would allow people to run their mailed ballots through a tabulator on Election Day. That way, they’d be part of the Election Day results. But the law sets up lots of parameters that require additional staffing, a different traffic flow and rules specifically for this subset of voters. The law just went into effect in September, so counties couldn’t institute it for this year’s election, but they could by the next big election.
Counting time has become a hot-button issue for a few reasons: Our races in recent cycles have been super close. Because we’re now a swing state, Arizona’s slow pace of counting that was once just an annoyance for the occasional tight congressional or legislative race has become a national issue, with scores of people watching and waiting on our tabulation.
And, perhaps most critically, we now have an entire industry of people who’ve made questioning elections their main gig. Those voices are loud, highly partisan and frequently misleading or incorrect. And most of them know better — it’s a tactic they use to sow doubt, not genuine interest in making voting more accessible, transparent and speedy.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake said she’ll call an election-focused special session should she win, where you can bet the laws that make Arizona voting what it is today will be on the chopping block. She and her allies have alleged that the county is purposefully slowing its counting or releasing results in a partisan way, while the county is still trying to figure out what happened with the printers, the Washington Post reports.
“Quite frankly, it is offensive for Kari Lake to say these people behind me are slow rolling when they’re working 14 to 18 hours,” Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates told the media yesterday. “I really hope this is the end of that now. We can be patient and respect the results.”
We could explain the valid reasons counting takes as long as it does for days, months, years on end. It won’t matter to that vocal segment of people who cannot accept simple explanations.
After another day of tabulating, including a drop of about 79,000 votes in Maricopa County of early ballots dropped off the few days before Tuesday, the outstanding races remained in largely the same spot. Here’s the latest, as of 8 p.m. Thursday.
Statewide: Democrat Kathy Hoffman regained her lead over Republican Tom Horne for state superintendent by about 4,000 votes. Meanwhile, Democrat Katie Hobbs is still leading for governor. She increased her margin to about 27,000 votes over Kari Lake yesterday. Democrat Kris Mayes held her lead over Republican Abe Hamadeh in the AG’s race — she’s up by about 17,000 votes. And Democrat Adrian Fontes is still leading Republican Mark Finchem for secretary of state by a wide margin.
Federal: U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly maintains a healthy lead over GOP contender Blake Masters, by a nearly 115,000-vote margin. Democrat Jevin Hodge kept a lead of a few thousand votes in CD1, as did Republican Juan Ciscomani in CD6.
Legislature: The race between Republican Steve Kaiser and Democrat Jeanne Casteen for LD2 Senate is neck and neck, with Kaiser narrowly leading. The Democrats in LD9 kept their leads in both the Senate and House races, though all are close. In LD16, the race for the second House seat is super tight, with Democrat Keith Seaman narrowly leading Republican Rob Hudelson (Teresa Martinez has the lead by a fair margin).
Senate Republicans held a not-so-secret meeting yesterday at the Irish Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix to pick Warren Petersen as the next Senate president, along with Sonny Borrelli as majority leader and Sine Kerr as whip.
But the caucus took some real liberties with who was eligible to vote in that election.
The rule has traditionally been that candidates who are leading their race at the time of the vote for leadership can vote for leadership, with an occasional exception for a candidate who is trailing but on an upward trajectory. But this year, Republican Senate candidates Nancy Barto, Robert Scantlebury and Gary Garcia Snyder all got to vote for the next Senate president, even though they are losing their races by 4 to 8 percentage points. Petersen won yesterday’s election by one vote, so those three additional candidates voting decided the race — and they may not even be senators come January.
And there’s another wrinkle: Right now, Republicans hold a one seat-majority in the Senate. But that 16th seat is hanging by a thread. Tying the Senate is still within Democrats’ reach, should Democrat Jeanne Casteen overtake Republican Steve Kaiser in LD2, where she trails by just 425 votes. If Casteen pulls ahead, and the three Republicans stay behind, yesterday’s vote is moot.
In a tied Senate, the president is whoever can cobble together 16 votes. The last time that happened, one Republican cut a deal with 15 Democrats to make him president and them committee chairs.
Meanwhile, House and Senate Democrats chose their leaders yesterday, assuming they don’t split or take the majority in either chamber. Raquel Terán will lead the Senate Democrats, with Mitzi Epstein as assistant leader, Rosanna Gabaldon as whip and Lela Alston as caucus chair. For the House Dems, it’s Andrés Cano as leader, Lupe Contreras as assistant leader, and Melody Hernandez and Marcelino Quiñonez as co-whips.
Cochise, what are you doing?: Cochise County wants the Arizona Supreme Court to weigh on whether it can conduct a 100% hand count, citing printing problems in Maricopa County as a reason a hand count is necessary, despite that being a different county, a problem that didn’t affect Cochise and a reason that didn’t exist when the county first started exploring the full hand count. The county is now paying for its legal help from outside attorneys using county funds instead of private funds, as had previously been discussed.
Getting the courts ready: While the Republican National Committee’s quest to keep the polls open longer on election night over the printing issues didn’t succeed, its lawsuit is still moving through the courts. The RNC alleges some voters had to cast provisional ballots that may not be counted unless a court intervenes, Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer reports. The county has said it doesn’t believe people were prevented from voting because of the printer issues.
Who wants to be like Florida?: Republicans are increasingly pointing to Florida as a model for counting ballots quickly. There are a few reasons Florida counts faster than we do, including a Florida law that limits where voters can drop ballots on Election Day and processing ballot envelopes in-house instead of at a vendor like in Arizona, Votebeat’s Jen Fifield reports. (Plus, Florida’s major races this year were not close.)
Heavy is the head that wears the crown: While the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Recorder’s Office deny there’s any kind of “rift” between them over the printer problems, Recorder Stephen Richer has distanced himself from the problem and sought to clarify that his role does not include Election Day in-person voting, the Republic’s Sasha Hupka reports. While recorders are elected, elections directors are appointed by the county boards, though the delineation isn’t well-understood by the general public.
What’s old is new: Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone was found in civil contempt of court, just as his predecessor Joe Arpaio was, in a long-running racial profiling case, the Associated Press reports. Penzone’s internal affairs unit was the cause for the contempt ruling. It has a backlog of more than 2,000 internal investigations, which have taken 600+ days to complete each.
Forced to move: Developers in the Valley are buying out mobile home parks to raze, leaving the residents of those homes without an affordable place to go, KJZZ’s Christina Estes reports. The residents typically own their homes, but lease the land they’re on, so they’re supposed to take their mobile homes with them if they move. While residents can get some assistance, the higher rents they face mean they’re still displaced by the closures.
Deep 2022 dive: Trump’s heavy hand and some weak candidates affected the GOP’s ability to make major gains in the midterms, a team at the Washington Post reports. Candidates that avoided the Trump spectacle tended to see better prospects, and in Arizona, House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly told Trump not to endorse in the competitive CD6 race, where Juan Ciscomani leads. One of those weak candidates was GOP U.S. Senate contender Blake Masters, who’s losing so far, and whose primary campaign the Post said “unfolded like undergraduate performance art.”
“‘It was an ‘oh s--t’ moment,’ Chad Willems, Masters’ general consultant at the time, said of the Social Security statement. ‘I think Blake regretted using that phrase,’” the Post writes.
We’re No. 1: Inflation in the Phoenix area dropped by 0.5%, to 7.7% from 8.2%, though we still have the highest consumer price index increase year over year nationally, with housing prices being one of the main drivers, the Republic’s Russ Wiles reports.
International investigation: Republican Arizona Rep. Walt Blackman wants the state to investigate real estate fraud that his constituents, and potentially other Arizonans, experienced with a property they owned in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Jakob Thorington reports. The property was illegally transferred to another person without the owners’ consent, and the couple that owned the property have not been able to get help with authorities or the courts in Mexico for nearly seven years, they said.
Let them in: The Republic, the state’s largest newspaper, was again denied a request to witness an execution as media, the paper’s Jimmy Jenkins reports. The state is set to execute Murray Hooper on Nov. 16.
Quaint but cute: As we wait for more election results, Republic columnist EJ Montini tells the story of a 1992 Republican primary in Arizona that was decided by a hand of poker. After John Gaylord and Richard Kyle received the exact same number of votes (even in a recount) in Legislative District 6’s primary, they kept the matter out of the courts and played a hand of five-card stud instead, with then-House Speaker (and later Gov.) Jane Hull as the dealer. Kyle won with a pair of sevens.
“Oh, it’s the West. I can’t help but remember that Show Low got its name from a card game. And I’d prefer a good, solid game of five-card stud, high hand wins,” Gaylord told a Republic reporter at the time.
Don’t buy an owl from the gas station, the Payson Police Department warned the public this week. Officers pulled over a vehicle and noticed a “young owl” beside the driver, which the person had purchased as a “local gas station” from someone who had found said owl on the side of the road. The owl had minor injuries and couldn’t be returned to the wild, so Arizona Game and Fish picked it up.
“The Payson Police Department would also like to take this opportunity to encourage the public not to use methamphetamine or you too may find yourself illegally purchasing a wild owl, for $100 dollars, in the middle of the night, from strangers, at a local gas station,” the department posted on Facebook.