Election staffers in Arizona’s two most populous counties planned to work through the weekend counting remaining ballots from Tuesday’s election, and after a pivotal update in the governor’s race Saturday evening, Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs grew her narrow lead.
Hobbs came out far ahead in returns from Pima and Coconino counties, and was slightly behind Lake in the latest returns from Maricopa County.
Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, now leads opponent Kari Lake, the Republican nominee and former television news anchor, by more than 34,000 votes.
The state’s gubernatorial election was still too close to call Saturday.
Officials already counted over 2.2 million votes, but another approximately 265,000 are left to tally. Most of those are from counties that house Arizona’s population centers, including Tucson in Pima County and Phoenix in Maricopa County.
Election coverage: Live voting updates | Arizona election results
Ballot returns so far from both counties have favored Hobbs, who has maintained the lead since Tuesday, though Lake significantly narrowed that gap as day-of election votes were counted.
But it’s not just rural versus urban geography that counts in the purple state’s election math equation.
Saturday night’s results update from Maricopa County was expected to include mostly ballots that were mailed to voters but dropped off on Election Day.
There was much speculation about which candidate those ballots might favor.
In 2020, Republicans who typically voted early saw a boost among voters who cast ballots in person on Election Day, which helped Donald Trump close the gap on Joe Biden, who ultimately won the state by about 10,500 voters. Lake won 70% of Election Day votes statewide this year.
Many political observers attribute that shift to voters showing up in person because of Trump’s efforts casting doubt on elections before and after his ouster from the White House.
Rewinding the clock back two years earlier offers a different scenario, when statewide Democratic candidates fared better on Election Day. U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Hobbs, who was then running for secretary of state, slowly climbed to victory as day-of ballots and late-arriving mail ballots were counted in 2018.
More than 290,000 ballots were dropped off Tuesday in Maricopa County, a record-breaking number compared to recent election years. Those ballots must get removed from an affidavit envelope and staffers must verify voters’ signatures before they are counted, a process that can take days.
It is uncertain if they will favor Lake, who fared better among Election Day voters, or Hobbs, who dominated the early vote. Saturday’s count in Maricopa County was expected to provide clues about those ballots, offering a possible bellwether of days to come.
Arizona’s election of a new governor is one of the most high-profile races in the country and one of the few left to be called.
Hobbs urges patience; Lake criticizes
While awaiting results, Hobbs has urged patience.
“As we await outstanding ballots, I remain confident in the will of (Arizona) voters and am grateful to the election officials diligently working to ensure every vote is properly counted,” Hobbs said on social media Friday evening. “To everyone closely watching our race, thanks for your patience. We look forward to the days ahead.”
Lake has gone on a tour of national and conservative media appearances saying she was confident she would win, drafting a boost from Election Day votes. She has pledged to reform the state’s “terrible” elections that are “run poorly, they’re ripe with fraud.” She did not respond to a request for comment or an interview this week from The Arizona Republic.
Kari Lake: Taunts Maricopa County election officials after stoking fears on mail-in ballots
“We’ve seen this time and time again, and nothing’s being done,” Lake told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Friday. “Our elected officials tell us if we dare bring it up we are conspiracy theorists, we are election deniers. Darn it, we’ve got to start bringing this up.”
In Maricopa County, about 30% of voting locations had issues on Election Day, with ballots printed on-site not dark enough for tabulators to read. But Lake has also alleged the timing of the vote counting and length of the process were atypical, though Maricopa County officials dispute that claim.
Pima County officials, who have about 70,000 ballots left to count, planned to update their results every evening about 6 p.m. Maricopa County officials typically update about 8 p.m.
Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Ariz. governor race: Hobbs’ lead over Lake grows in latest returns