How soon will voters see results in Tuesday’s primary election? – The Arizona Republic

Arizona voters can expect to see the first batch of election results about an hour after the polls close Tuesday, with more to follow throughout the night, although it could take longer to determine winners in tight races.

State law gives county election officials 10 days to wrap up counting.

Maricopa County expects to release its first batch of results around 8 p.m. that will include early ballots largely cast last month. In a county where more than three-fourths of voters cast early ballots, this will represent a sizable chunk of the results. 

From there, if all goes smoothly, election workers expect to tally votes cast in person on Tuesday and release those at intervals throughout Tuesday night.

The next day, the county expects to begin verifying signatures and counting early ballots dropped off later Monday and Election Day, as well as any ballots that required more investigation. For example, a person showing up to vote without the proper ID is allowed to cast a ballot, but it isn’t counted unless the voter returns within five days with proper identification. 

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That could take a few days, according to Megan Gilbertson, the county’s Elections Department spokesperson.

The more last-minute early ballots received, the longer it may take to count votes and determine tight races.

“It just depends on how many voters drop their early ballots off on Election Day,” Gilbertson said. 

Here’s more to know about when to expect results.

The tallying schedule

The first votes tallied, according to state law, are those cast early that arrive before Tuesday. 

State law allows election staff to start processing votes after accuracy tests are performed on tabulation equipment certifying the machines. This year, officials tested Maricopa County’s tabulation equipment on July 5 and began counting early ballots on July 19, Gilbertson said.

As of Friday, county election workers had received about 600,000 ballots by mail, according to County Recorder Stephen Richer. Those ballots, and others that arrived over the weekend and early Monday, will be included in the first round of results Maricopa County expects to release an hour after polls close. 

The county expects to receive about 813,000 early ballots in total.

On election night, workers will tabulate ballots from in-person voters at the county’s 211 voting centers. County Elections Director Scott Jarrett said it may take a few hours for polls in the farthest reaches of the county to report results.

“We are the second largest voting jurisdiction (in the country), but we’re also larger than seven states, so a very large geographic area,” Jarrett said. “So, it can take a while for those outlying voting precincts to be able to deliver those memory cards that we need to upload and report those results.”

Nevertheless, he said he expects all voting centers to provide results by 1 a.m. Wednesday, barring any unforeseen issues.

In the days after the election, workers will process and tally early ballots dropped off immediately before and on Election Day. Then, they will process the provisional ballots, used when there is uncertainty about a voter’s eligibility, and conditional provisional ballots, which are used when a voter forgets to bring identification with them to the polls.

When a voter casts a provisional ballot, workers must verify their signature against the voter’s registration information and ensure nobody tried to cast more than one ballot in that voter’s name. Conditional provisional ballots allow voters up to five business days to bring a form of photo ID to their local city clerk’s office or the Maricopa County Elections Department.

Jarrett said they expect to have all of the votes counted one week from the election, or by Aug. 9, which is the deadline set by state law for voters to “cure,” or verify, any questionable signatures on early ballots and provide proof of identification if they cast a conditional provisional ballot on election day. That would be ahead of the 10-day deadline to have everything counted. 

Other counties across the state count votes in a similar order, according to Sophia Solis, spokeswoman for the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. Solis said she expects “everyone will meet their statutory deadlines.”

Are results on election night official?

Results released on election night are unofficial results as there still will be votes left to count.

Once all the votes are counted, counties across the state will canvass them, or officially report the results to the state. The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office then does its own canvass and the results become official. This year, the state canvass is scheduled for Aug. 22.  

While results on election night are unofficial, media outlets and political pundits can sometimes call races on election night if a candidate has a wide enough margin that the outstanding votes are extremely unlikely to change the outcome.

With tighter races, determining who wins takes longer

Gilbertson said Maricopa County tallies ballots faster than ever before.

“This equipment is counting faster, we’re finishing counting faster than in past elections, and that continues to be what we’re seeing,” she said.

But increasingly, races have tight margins and take longer to call.

“Ultimately, what it is, the races are closer,” Gilbertson said. “And so when the races are closer, then the media outlets aren’t calling those races, and when the races aren’t called, people are still interested in counting all the ballots.”

Maricopa County also has a growing population and an increasing number of voters casting early ballots. Arizona lawmakers have made recent changes that allow counties to begin counting early ballots sooner, and Gilbertson said that has improved how quickly the county releases results.

In 2018, the county was not allowed to start counting ballots until one week before Election Day, so “it took them longer to count,” Gilbertson said. In 2020, the county was allowed to start counting ballots two weeks before the election, which sped up results.

“The laws continue to change,” she said.” Now, we can start as soon as our equipment is logic and accuracy tested … and so, for us, this is as quick as we can (count) because we have to live within the laws.”

Reach reporter Sasha Hupka at sasha.hupka@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SashaHupka.

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