One of the oddities of the midterm elections in Arizona was Republican turnout was up and Democratic turnout down from 2018 in Maricopa County, yet some of the top-of-the-ticket GOP candidates lost their races.
The county, encompassing the Phoenix metropolitan area, includes 60 percent of registered voters in the state.
Republicans outnumber Democrats in Arizona overall by more than 166,000 people.
Maricopa County had a 64.2 percent voter participation rate in the midterms, which was about 8 percent above the average 56.3 percent going back to the 1970s, according to the county’s Election Day director, Scott Jarrett, who provided an election summary at the county Board of Supervisors meeting Monday.
However, that was not quite as high as the 2018 midterm participation rate of 64.5 percent.
In this month’s election, 75.4 percent of Republicans turned out and voted, according to Jarrett. In 2018, the GOP turnout was more than 1 percentage point lower at 74.2 percent.
Meanwhile, Democrats saw a lighter turnout this year than in 2018: 68.5 percent versus 69.9 percent.
Despite Democratic turnout being down from 2018, the party’s gubernatorial candidate and Arizona’s secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, won her race against Republican Kari Lake.
Additionally, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly defeated GOP challenger Blake Masters.
Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes held a lead of about 500 votes over Republican Abe Hamadeh, though that race is heading to a recount.
In 2022, according to Maricopa County:
75.4% of Republicans turned out, up from 2018
68.5% of Democrats turned out, down from 2018
There are more registered Republicans (1,436,852) than Democrats (1,270,544) in AZ
Yet…no GOP candidate benefited (Except the treasurer!😂) pic.twitter.com/4fJsV9EuH7
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) November 28, 2022
The Kelly victory can be explained. He is the incumbent, an astronaut, a Navy veteran and the husband of former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who suffered a grievous and lasting injury during a 2011 assassination attempt.
Understandably, there is a lot of goodwill toward Kelly, among Democrats and apparently independents too, though he voted with the very unpopular President Joe Biden 94.5 percent of the time.
Biden’s approval rating in the Grand Canyon State stood at 36 percent last month, but Kelly held a 49 percent to 42 percent lead in that same Civiqs poll.
Exit polling showed Kelly winning independents 55 percent to 39 percent, a plus-16 margin.
The RealClearPolitics polling average had the race pretty much at a dead heat going into Election Day. Kelly ended up winning the contest 51.4 percent to Masters’ 46.5 percent, a difference of about 125,000 votes.
Less understandable is the Hobbs win over Lake for the open governor’s seat. The Republican candidate held the lead in nearly every poll in the month-and-a-half period leading into the election and had a 3.5 percent advantage in the RCP average, yet Hobbs won by about 17,000 votes.
The Democratic candidate, like Kelly, carried independents, but by a smaller margin of 7 percent, 52 percent to 45 percent.
One explanation for Lake coming up short in the vote tally, and what her campaign has pointed to, is the chaos that happened in Maricopa County on Election Day, when ballot tabulators and ballot printers were not functioning at 71 polling locations, according to the county — though the Lake campaign puts the number at 114, or 53 percent of the sites.
Hours-long lines developed at multiple sites experiencing these problems, leading the Lake campaign to argue that since Republicans voted 3-to-1 over Democrats on Election Day, what happened was large-scale vote suppression of her supporters.
Here is one example I witnessed firsthand in the ruby-red community of Anthem on the north side of Phoenix, where the line was about two hours both at midday and again at 6 p.m.
Here is the problem w/ what happened in Maricopa County on Election Day. This is Anthem, north of Phoenix at about 1:15 pm. Ruby red district of about 30K people. Only one polling location. Ballot tabulators not working in the morning. 2 hr wait to vote midday and still at 6 pm. pic.twitter.com/CY35yQWwq5
— Randy DeSoto (@RandyDeSoto) November 14, 2022
Poll worker Mike Peterson told the Board of Supervisors on Monday that hundreds of people at his voting location in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix were in effect disenfranchised.
Peterson said 675 people were waiting in line when his location officially closed at 7 p.m. The would-be voters could have stayed in line and waited to cast a ballot, but most apparently gave up.
“Of those 675, do you know how many came in? One hundred and fifty. It means that you have personally disenfranchised voters. They have [come], they have seen and they have given up because they know what is going on,” he said.
In other words, more than 500 people who clearly wanted to vote did not, and that was just voters who showed up near the end of Election Day at one site.
Maricopa Poll Worker CONFIRMS: Poll Workers WERE NOT trained properly, voters were 100% disenfranchised.
“Every single one of us who’s a poll worker right now is making fun of you” pic.twitter.com/HjXrWM50Bx
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) November 28, 2022
This figure would not include those who might have been discouraged by long lines during the day.
Given the approximately 17,000 votes separating Lake and Hobbs, it would take a net of about 240 Lake supporters being prevented or discouraged from voting in each of the 70 ill-functioning polling stations to make the difference. If the true number of polling locations experiencing issues was 114, that would translate to 149 voters per location.
The county claims only 62 of 223 polling locations had wait times of over 30 minutes, with only 16 having hour-plus wait times.
In a letter to the Maricopa board last week, the Arizona attorney general’s office highlighted other issues arising from the ballot printer and tabulation problems on Election Day.
“The Elections Integrity Unit (‘Unit’) of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (‘AGO’) has received hundreds of complaints since Election Day pertaining to issues related to the administration of the 2022 General Election in Maricopa County,” Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright wrote.
“These complaints go beyond pure speculation, but include first-hand witness accounts that raise concerns regarding Maricopa’s lawful compliance with Arizona election law,” she said.
Wright noted among other issues that there were reports about — and the county has admitted to — the commingling of ballots at some polling places with those that were not able to be read by the machines.
The Lake campaign has called for a redo of the election in Maricopa County, and the candidate said Wednesday she will be seeking that in court.
This time the election should be run by competent, unbiased people, Lake argued.
“We definitely can’t have Maricopa County and these same clowns who ran this circus of an election run the next one,” she said.
“And I think a lot of people in Arizona want to have a new election in Maricopa County,” the Republican said. “We’ll see what the court says.”
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and County Recorder Stephen Richer founded a political action committee last year dedicated to defeating MAGA Republican candidates like Lake.
.@KariLake: “The people who chose to show up on Election Day were abused by a system ran by men who wanted to bring me down & stop a movement in Arizona.” pic.twitter.com/Q7Kk1OeqZo
— Kari Lake War Room (@KariLakeWarRoom) November 30, 2022
Gates defended the integrity of the Nov. 8 election at Monday’s meeting before the board voted to certify it.
“This was not a perfect election, but it was safe and secure. The votes have been counted accurately,” he said.
Accurately counting the ballots cast is, of course, vitally important, and hopefully that happened, but an even more pressing matter in Maricopa County is the likely thousands of citizens who were in effect denied their chance to vote on Election Day.