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Why is Arizona’s vote count taking so long?

In state’s where the vote count is close, it can take longer to call a race

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An election worker boxes tabulated ballots inside the Maricopa County Recorders Office on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022.

An election worker boxes tabulated ballots inside the Maricopa County Recorders Office on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, in Phoenix. While results for many races are known on election night, it’s not unusual for some races to take longer, especially in a tightly contested battleground state like Arizona.

Matt York, Associated Press

Results in Arizona’s high-profile gubernatorial and U.S. Senate race remain too close to call while voters in states like Florida and Ohio already know who won. Why?

While results for many races are known on election night, it’s not unusual for some races to take longer, especially in a tightly contested battleground state like Arizona.

The Associated Press said it doesn’t call races until “the moment a trailing candidate no longer has a path to victory.” The AP’s Decision Team bases its models on data including past turnout and results, and it studies incoming votes on a county-by-county basis.

“All of this reporting and analysis is aimed at determining the answer to a single question: Can the trailing candidates catch the leader?” the AP wrote in its explainer. “Only when the answer is an unquestionable ‘no’ is the race ready to be called.”

In races where a party or candidate has a history of winning by wide margins, races can be called relatively quickly, even as soon as polls close. More tightly contested races can take longer, though.

In Arizona, Democratic statewide candidates currently lead the vote count, including gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs and Sen. Mark Kelly, but Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters still have paths to victory as votes are counted.

About 1.9 million votes have been counted in Arizona as of Thursday morning, representing 70% of votes.

Printing issues at some Arizona vote locations temporarily prevented machines from immediately tabulating some ballots because the ink wasn’t dark enough for the machine to read, but voters were still able to drop off their ballots to be counted and no eligible voters were turned away or prevented from voting. The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office said ballots that can’t be read by tabulators — including because of stray marks, torn paper or water damage — are reviewed by multiple election workers from different political parties.

If the vote count is close, it could also trigger an automatic government-mandated recount. The Arizona Legislature passed a law earlier this year changing the threshold for automatic recounts from a tenth of 1% to a half of 1% following President Joe Biden’s narrow win in the state in 2020.