Voices: In Arizona right now, nobody knows what to think

Two days after the election, Arizona is still counting ballots. Meanwhile, the country watches on. The fight for the Senate seems to have come down to Arizona, its neighboring state of Nevada, and Georgia, which is going to a runoff in December. Nevada and Arizona results are expected soon.

President Joe Biden won the state of Arizona in 2020 by 0.3 percent of the vote — around 10,000 votes — so every ballot paper does matter.

Thomas Galvin is a Maricopa County supervisor, a member of the board who oversees Election Day operations. He explained in a phone interview, “The eyes of the world are on this election, and people prize accuracy and it must be treated with the utmost importance. The process is taking a long time because 290,000 mail ballots were dropped off on Election Day, which was a record.”

“In 2020, a presidential election, 170,000 mail ballots were dropped off on Election Day,” he continued. “It takes a while for our workers to process our ballots because they are checking the signatures before they can begin counting the actual ballots. State law allows people to drop off their ballots on Election Day, so it inevitably means it takes days to go through them.”

Maricopa County attorney candidate Julie Gunnigle — a Democrat who has promised to protect the rights of women and healthcare workers in Arizona, where abortion rights are under threat — is one of those candidates who is patiently waiting for her results. She said in a text interview: “Like everyone else, we’re waiting for every vote to be counted. I’m incredibly proud of the values- and community-based campaign I ran.”

The early votes counted looked like a slam-dunk for Democrats, but it is evening out, and in some key races the Republicans briefly overtook their Democratic competitors, only to later fall back again. Many margins remain razor-thin at the time of writing.

Depending on who you ask, you will get a different projection on who will take office. Christian “C.J.” Diegel — a 2018 Republican candidate and former state leader for the right-leaning advocacy organization Stand Up Republic — believes that Kari Lake, who he did not support, will win for governor. “Look, everyone has voted already and it’s just a matter of counting and processing all the ballots,” he said. “Based on trends I’m seeing and who likely dropped off ballots on Tuesday, with 300,000 votes left to count in Maricopa County as of Thursday morning, even with a 13,000-vote lead [right now] I think Katie Hobbs is vulnerable. Even though Kari Lake is not my choice for governor, I think she will squeak out the win. I don’t have to like it, but this is democracy. Based on those same trends, I think Mark Kelly holds on, and that Adrian Fontes wins Secretary of State.”

At the time of this writing, the Democrats are leading many key races. Pima County, which is the Tucson area and tends to lean 55-60 percent Democratic, still has around 150,000 votes to be counted.

Maricopa County also has about 400,00 ballots that are being processed, and it is a purple area, often evenly split 50-50. It’s hard to know which way this Phoenix-area county will lean this time round — especially because the numbers have made it clear that people split their votes, rather than voting all red or all blue down the ballot. We can see proof of that in the fact that some individual Democrats and some individual Republicans are way in the lead, according to the latest numbers.

All of this leads me to believe that just like in 2020, the Independent voters who make up a third of the state will be the group of people who determine the outcome of this election.

The next batch of results from Maricopa County are slated to be released around 8pm local time on Thursday evening. Arizona was a red state that shocked the nation by turning blue in 2020. We may be in for another surprise in 2022.