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Election officials explain why Arizona races have not been called, including 44,000 ‘late early ballots’

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JT Thorpe | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona mail-in ballots come with "I voted" stickers, often designed differently than the ones handed out on Election Day. For the 2022 midterm election, the last day to mail in was Nov. 1, but voters could still hand them in on Election Day at any polling stations. 

Several Arizona political races have yet to be called and it could take several more days, election officials said during a press conference Thursday, Nov. 9, to explain the holdup and what people can expect in the next few days.

Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly and Elections Director Constance Hargrove said the counting process for mail-in ballots coupled with “late” mail-in ballots are contributing to the longer time frame.

Mail-in ballots take longer to record than ballots filled out in person on Election Day because they all need to be taken out of their envelopes before being checked and all signatures must be verified in order for the votes to officially count.

“We have approximately [over 50,000 early ballots] awaiting some portion of the process,” Cázares-Kelly said. “Some of that is waiting to be scanned. We are still removing the yellow shells from the white ballot affidavits and scanning those ballots through. We are also signature verifying.”

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There are also about 1,000 “problem ballots” so far, which require election officials to reach out to each individual to verify their votes. Common problems with ballots include signatures that don’t match up and stained ballots.

“I want to make sure the public knows that if they have received a phone call from us or a text message, email or a letter, they have until the 16th at 5 o’clock to return our phone call,” Cázares-Kelly said.

She explained the whole process is taking even longer because mail-in ballots are meant to be sent in long before Election Day begins, which is why it’s considered “early voting.” In Arizona, the last day to mail in ballots on time for this midterm was Nov. 1.

Despite this, Arizona voters still have the option to fill out their mail-in ballots and hand them in directly on Election Day at any polling station. These ballots are what Cázares-Kelly and Hargrove referred to as “late early ballots” or “late earlies,” since they’re typically expected to arrive ahead of time.

“We received 44,000 late early ballots on Election Day,” Cázares-Kelly said. “The Recorder’s Office didn’t receive those from the Elections Department until 10 the next morning. And they have to be processed, so this is the standard amount of time that it takes, this is what it always takes.”

As votes are counted over the next few days, people can expect at least one daily update.

“You can look for, at least at minimum, a posting of results around 6 o’clock every night,” Hargrove said.

Depending on how many ballots are processed, though, there may be an additional update around noon before the one in the evening.

Both election officials said everyone is working as fast as they can while still prioritizing accuracy.

“As far as the Elections Department goes, we’re working very quickly, working very diligently, trying to make sure we get everything counted and out there as soon as possible,” Hargrove said. “I understand everyone wants to know where they stand in the election, and so our goal is to make sure we get that information out there as quickly as possible.”

As of now, Arizona election officials are aiming to process the majority of ballots by Monday, Nov. 14.

“Monday is a really good goal,” Cázares-Kelly said. “We want to report these numbers to you. It would make our lives easier to be able to finish sooner. So it is our goal to do this as quickly as possible.”


*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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