(NewsNation) — It’s been three days since the 2022 midterm elections and officials in Arizona are still counting votes that could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
With more than 350,000 ballots left to be counted in Maricopa County, election officials expect results from 60,000 or so votes to be released each day until completion. Their goal is to get to 95 to 99% tabulation early next week.
The state’s other high-profile race, between Republican gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake and her opponent, Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, is much closer. The two candidates are separated by roughly 1%.
Here’s what we know about the situation in Arizona.
where do the races currently stand?
The Democratic candidates in the Senate and governor’s races still hold leads over their GOP opponents, but that could change.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Hobbs holds a 50.7% to 49.3% lead over Republican Lake. The two are separated by just 26,979 votes, according to Decision Desk HQ. An estimated 83% of the votes are in, Decision Desk said.
Mark Kelly currently holds a more comfortable lead over Masters, 51.8% to 46.1%. The two are separated by about 115,037 votes, according to Decision Desk HQ.
how many ballots are left?
In Arizona on Friday, about 518,034 still needed to be counted, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Election workers in Maricopa County, Arizona hoped to count 95-99% of ballots by Friday, but they say “the goalposts have changed” with the amount of ballots left to count.
Most of those are in Maricopa County, which is Arizona’s most populous county. As of the end of the week, Maricopa County had 353,885 ballots uncounted.
Outside of Maricopa County, about 160,000 ballots still need to be counted. The bulk of them, about 130,000 are in Pima County, which includes Tucson.
who could see a boost from the remaining votes?
Most of the remaining votes in Maricopa County are early ballots that were returned on Election Day.
Traditionally, Democrats are more likely to vote by mail, whereas Republicans are more likely to vote in person on Election Day — NewsNation’s own polling has confirmed this trend. For that reason, Democratic voters may be excited to hear that most of the outstanding ballots are early mail ballots.
But as Nate Cohn, the chief political analyst at the New York Times, explained this week, Arizona is not typical.
“A large majority of voters cast ballots by mail in Arizona, so the mail ballots are not nearly as favorable toward Democrats,” wrote Cohn. “Instead, a strange pattern has emerged in recent years: Democrats mail in their ballots well ahead of the election, leaving Republicans to turn in their ballots near the election or (they) simply prefer to vote in person,” Cohn wrote.
In other words, the ballots remaining — most of which were returned at or near Election Day — may end up favoring Republicans. Cohn points out that Trump won a wide majority of the ballots counted after Election Day in 2020.
It remains to be seen whether Lake and Masters will see similar gains.
what’s taking so long?
Thursday night, officials in Maricopa County said a record 290,000 mail-in ballots dropped off on Election Day are contributing to the delay.
Because the majority of the remaining votes are mail ballots returned in person, not in-person votes, the ballots have to be sorted, and their signatures verified, before being tabulated.
That immense same-day tally has slowed down the tabulation process.
“It is important that we signature verify all of those because it is how we confirm your identity,” said Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer at a press conference Wednesday.
By comparison, about 170,000 early ballots were returned in Maricopa County on Election Day in 2020, Richer said.
when will we know?
It could take until early next week for Maricopa County to hit 95% to 99% of ballots counted, NewsNation’s Robert Sherman reported Thursday. Previously county officials had said they expected to reach 99% by Friday but those estimates have been pushed back.
Depending on how those votes break, NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ may be able to call the races based on that information.
what about the other races in ARizona?
As of Friday morning, Democratic challenger Jevin Hodge held a razor-thin lead, 50.8% to 49.2%, over Republican incumbent David Schweikert in the race to represent Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. About 4,577 votes separate the two with an estimated 80% already counted.
In the secretary of state race, Democrat Adrian Fontes holds a 52.7% to 47.3% lead over Republican Mark Finchem.
The Democratic candidate for attorney general, Kris Mayes, also held a narrow lead Thursday, up just 16,542 votes on Republican Abraham Hamadeh.