By Terri Jo Neff |
As of press time, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake was close to Katie Hobbs, with only 32,200 or so votes separating them, with 350,000 more ballots awaiting tabulation statewide.
It has long been believed that Election Day votes—in person and early ballots dropped off at a voting center—will break in favor of Republican statewide candidates. But there have been complaints from Lake’s campaign that tabulated ballots thought to be from pro-Lake parts of Maricopa County are being held back.
This has kept Lake at a thin margin behind Hobbs going into Saturday night, despite the current Secretary of State’s lack of involvement in widescale public events and Hobbs’ lack of a publicized platform during the campaign.
One consideration is that many of the 17,000 “drawer 3” ballots cast in-person on Election Day, which were not immediately tabulated due to printer toner issues, have been set aside at Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC). Those ballots have been projected as likely coming from pro-Lake voters.
Lake and her campaign have remained positive, expressing confidence that the ballot remaining to be tabulated will break for her and the other statewide Republican candidates.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Kelly gave a victory speech on Saturday, although his Republican challenger Blake Masters called on Arizonans to wait until all ballots are counted.
And for his part, Attorney General nominee Abe Hamadeh alleged that the Election Day printer toner issue in Maricopa County was directed against Republicans.
Outgoing Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem has also declined to concede his race for Arizona Secretary of State, although Adrian Fontes had a nearly 120,000 vote lead. He would need roughly 70 percent of the remaining votes to hold even with Fontes.
One person who did concede already is Democrat Martin Quezada, who acknowledged Kimberly Yee as the winner of a second term as State Treasurer by a margin of more than 225,000 votes.
And as previously reported by AZ Free News, Arizona’s second populous county is warning that Pima County’s election results may not be determined for several more days.
Meanwhile, elections officials in all 15 counties were required to begin a state-mandated hand count audit. That audit involves a predetermined number of randomly selected sampling of early ballots cast and election day in-person ballots cast.
But those hand counts can only occur if the political party chairs in each county provided the names of participants by a pre-election deadline. And then the participants must actually show up to conduct the audit.
During the 2020 Primary Election in August, there was no hand count audit performed in Apache, Graham, Greenlee, or Santa Cruz counties due to a lack of participation.
An effort by some Cochise County officials to conduct a 100 percent hand count audit of all ballots hit a roadblock when the Arizona Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear the matter on an expedited basis.
Instead, the court of appeals set several deadlines for December to hear the arguments from Cochise County’s two Republican supervisors and Republican County Recorder as to why they have authority to hand count more ballots than what is required in state law.
The appeal stems from a Pima County judge’s ruling that hand counting all ballots conflicts with language in state law for a “random” selection of ballots. A Nov. 15 meeting has been called by the board in hopes of modifying their full hand count directive to one calling for the audit of only 99.9 percent of ballots.
Attorneys for the board contend this complies with the randomness concern. One outstanding question is how Recorder David Stevens, whom the board has tasked with the expanded hand count audit, will get his hands on the ballots which are currently in the legal custody of the county’s election director, Lisa Marra.
Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre, himself a Republican, authored a Nov. 10 letter to Marra’s attorney outlining several “potential criminal acts” that could result if attempts are made to take the ballots from Marra’s custody without a court order.
McIntyre’s letter was copied to Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, who has not taken a public position on how his deputies will respond if the expanded hand count moves forward.