Record ballot drop-offs on Election Day delay final Arizona results

A record number of ballots dropped off at Maricopa County vote centers Tuesday will delay final results in the midterm election.

Officials in Arizona's most populated county initially estimated they would complete the vote tally by Friday. Now, they say, they will be counting through the weekend.

Maricopa County officials have so far tallied 1.2 million votes. There were an estimated 340,000 to 350,000 ballots still to count as of Friday afternoon.

About 516,000 ballots statewide remained to be counted, the Secretary of State's Office said in a Friday update.

The unprecedented workload from the dropped-off ballots has put the county's election staffers in the national spotlight.

"We have so many close races that people are still paying attention to Maricopa County," Bill Gates, the Board of Supervisors chair, said Thursday.

About 290,000 mail-in ballots were dropped off at Maricopa County vote centers on Election Day, surpassing the record for drop-off ballots by 70% percent.

The number of drop-off ballots was 59% more than the 172,000 the county saw in 2020, election officials confirmed.

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The surge was fueled partly by hard-line Republicans who for months told voters they should not trust their ballots to the mail or to drop boxes and to take them personally to the polls on Election Day.

Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem made election fraud conspiracies a cornerstone of their campaigns, discouraging mail-in voting and urging supporters to vote in person.

Lake on Thursday taunted county officials on social media and in interviews with conservative news sites over their inability to finish counting. She also raised the specter of  a rigged election.

"It’s simple. Stop dragging your feet & get Election Day ballot numbers out," she tweeted.

She described the counting process in interviews as "embarrassing" and compared the handling of ballots in the county to a banana republic.

Gates, who is a Republican, said “it’s offensive” for Lake to charge that Maricopa County officials were slow-rolling results. Election workers were putting in 14 to 18 hours a day, he said.

He noted that election monitors from both parties were observing the counting process and said nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

Former county recorder Adrian Fontes said Thursday the county was counting ballots much faster than when he was in office from 2017-2021.

"I am pretty impressed with the numbers," he said. "They are counting a hell of a lot of ballots this year."

Fontes, a Democrat, is in a close race for secretary of state against state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley.

Ballots being processed at Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) on Nov. 9, 2022, in Phoenix.
Ballots being processed at Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) on Nov. 9, 2022, in Phoenix.

Fontes said the county is sending about 172,000 ballots to tabulating machines in a single day. They were able to send about 60,000 per day when he was in office.

Not every ballot sent to tabulators can be immediately counted.

Maricopa voting: Election rift? Maricopa County officials push back on concerns over internal tensions

County officials have long said voters should not expect results on election night, and a final tally will take time. State law gives them until Nov. 28 to finish.

Signatures on each drop-off ballot must be verified before being scanned and then counted by tabulating machines.

Lake told Fox News personality Tucker Carlson Wednesday that countywide problems with voting machines occurred "primarily in Republican areas of town." She said she dropped off her own ballot at a vote center in a more liberal neighborhood where they didn't have problems.

Lake offered no evidence to support her claim, which her own lawyers previously debunked.

Voting tabulators at 30% of polling stations on Tuesday were unable to read formatting markers on ballots. The printed markers were not dark enough for the machines to register correctly.

Lake and U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters were plaintiffs in an emergency lawsuit filed by the Republican National Committee Tuesday to keep polls open in Maricopa County for three extra hours.

They argued that issues with voting equipment and erroneous instructions from poll workers prevented people from voting.

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RNC lawyer Kory Langhofer said Tuesday that issues plaguing vote centers were not targeted at Republican districts or voters.

A judge denied the request to extend polling hours, saying there was no evidence any voter was denied the right to cast a ballot.

Lake and Abe Hamadeh, Republican candidate for attorney general, suggested in social media posts they already had won even though razor-thin margins separated them from their opponents.

"I feel 100% certain I am going to win," Lake told Carlson. "The question is how big will that win be."

Lake was still trailing Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs on Friday.

Hamadeh claimed victory Wednesday after a vote drop gave him a tiny lead over his Democratic opponent Kris Mayes. Additional results reported hours later put Mayes ahead.

Both Lake and Hamadeh are endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Gates said it's not fair comparing the count in Arizona to the process in other states.

Florida, for example, where counts have progressed faster, don't have the same rules that Arizona does. For instance, early voting in Florida closes the Sunday before Election Day.

Maricopa County is following the election process established by the state Legislature, he said.

Gates said Friday he expected the county to release 80,000 more results about 8 p.m. He said the county would continue releasing results in nightly batches until the counting was done.

Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl contributed to this article.

Robert Anglen is an investigative reporter for The Republic. Reach him at or 602-444-8694. Follow him on Twitter @robertanglen.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Record ballot drop-offs delay final Arizona election results