Maria Polletta Arizona Republic
(CNT) City News Talk #arizona
After Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly appeared to secure solid wins in Arizona early Wednesday, progressive voters in the once reliably red state were hopeful its shifting voting patterns would deliver them control of the Legislature, too.
Taking control of even one chamber would give Democrats a level of influence over legislation and budgeting they haven’t seen in decades. At the very least, the party would have a shot at blocking the Republican policies they’ve unsuccessfully fought for years.
But as of Wednesday morning, several key races in both the state House and Senate remained too close to call, with Republicans continuing to chip away at and in some cases overtaking Democrats’ early leads.
Democrats leading Arizona’s most-watched congressional races were not far enough ahead to declare victory, either. And analysts also had yet to hand a win to a voter-led bid to increase education funding through a tax increase on high earners.
As in other states, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred droves of Arizonans who supported Democrats to vote by mail; if more Republicans waited to vote on Election Day as expected, results could shift more in the GOP’s favor.
Still, the fact that unofficial results indicate President Donald Trump lost by more than 100,000 votes in Arizona’s most populous county — a county where Democrats tried merely to survive in years past — suggests a significant shift in the state’s politics, bolstered by Democrats’ leads in the Maricopa County sheriff’s and attorney’s races.
As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, there were about 600,000 ballots left to count in Arizona.
“It’s far too early to call the election in Arizona,” Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said on Twitter, referring to the presidential race. “Let’s count the votes — all the votes — before making declarations.”
Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, a Green Valley Democrat, had a similar sentiment about legislative races.
“I remember that at this point in 2018, (now-Democratic Secretary of State) Katie Hobbs was not leading,” she posted on Twitter. “It’s not over until every vote is counted. I remain hopeful.”
A few candidates and measures did secure decisive victories Tuesday, after analysts deemed their leads insurmountable: Kelly easily unseated Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona’s special election, and Arizona’s second attempt to legalize recreational marijuana won handily.
Voting problems ‘isolated and sporadic’
Voting itself went relatively smoothly in Arizona, even in the face of obstacles created by the pandemic and concerns about voter intimidation. But the process wasn’t flawless.
Ahead of Election Day, someone stole 18 ballots out of Glendale mailboxes, according to the Attorney General’s Office. But law enforcement officers were able to hand-deliver the still-sealed ballots back to registered voters over the weekend.
On Tuesday, Apache County polling sites in Chinle and Window Rock did not open on time, spurring advocates to seek an extension of voting hours Tuesday evening.
Some printers in Maricopa County ran out of ink, according to Recorder Adrian Fontes, and a few polling places in Scottsdale and the West Valley saw long lines during Election Day.
Voters at a Queen Creek vote center reported harassment shortly before 1 p.m. by people who honked horns at them, yelled at them and tried to take their photographs.
And two siblings who tried to vote Tuesday evening in Phoenix said they were among a small group denied a vote and removed by law enforcement despite being in line by the state’s 7 p.m. cutoff.
Still, observers and legal advocates did not see “major systemic problems or attempts to obstruct voting,” according to Kristen Clarke, executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Floridians represented the bulk of voters reporting incidents at polling sites Tuesday, she said, not Arizonans.
“The problems that we have seen have been, for the most part, isolated and sporadic,” Clarke said. “We were bracing for the worst and have been pleasantly surprised.”
Though cities in California, Minnesota, North Carolina and Oregon saw clashes as votes were tallied, the protests some Phoenix businesses feared would erupt Tuesday night did not materialize, either.
Work of grassroots groups not over
As elections officials throughout the country continued to tally votes Wednesday, grassroots groups were making plans to keep Election Day momentum going.
In Flagstaff, leftist organization Flagstaff Direct Action planned a 5 p.m. rally at Heritage Square. The group encouraged attendees to wear masks and maintain physical distance.
Protect the Results, a progressive grassroots coalition that has vowed to ensure the Trump campaign doesn’t interfere with vote counts, had planned to host rallies in Tucson, Flagstaff and Yuma but announced Wednesday it would hold off.
“The entire coalition will remain vigilant in the days and weeks ahead,” the organization said Wednesday. “We are ready to mobilize if needed to ensure every vote is counted and respected.”
Not long after, Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, issued a “call to action” for a Friday morning rally at a Phoenix tabulation center.
“We need all red blooded American patriots at the rally to protect the vote and protect our president,” Congressman Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said when he promoted the event Wednesday afternoon.