Waiting game for Arizona election results fuels discussion for possible law change

State law allows Arizona voters to drop off early ballots on Election Day, which is one reason why it's taking so long to declare winners.
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 7:55 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2022 at 9:32 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - There have been a lot of people wondering why it’s taking so long to count ballots and receive final results in Arizona when other states are able to do it quicker. It all comes down to what’s in Arizona state law, but the long waiting game here already has officials discussing the possibility of making some changes.

Much of this issue is the record number of early ballots dropped off on Election Day – nearly 300,000 - and they all need to be signature verified, which is a robust process.

If the law were changed, we likely would have known the outcome of all races on election night. “State statute does allow you to drop off that early ballot until 7 p.m. on Election Day,” said Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer.

Richer is referring to Title 16 in Arizona law, which gives voters the legal right to do that. But many have asked: how can a state like Florida know its election results on election night?

Maricopa County Chairman Bill Gates addressed that Thursday. “Florida does not allow for mail-in ballots to be dropped off at voting locations on Election Day. So, they don’t allow it at all. We do,” said Gates.

We want to clarify that, though. According to Florida elections, you can drop off a mail-in ballot day of until 7 p.m. too. You just have to take it to your Florida county elections center as opposed to our state, where you can take it to any polling location.

Another difference between the two states is how close the races are. “Florida, those races were blowouts. Nobody is paying attention anymore,” said Gates. Meanwhile, in Arizona, several of our races are so tight they can’t be called yet, so we’re getting national attention.

So, could we ever see results on election night in Arizona? “You could propose a change to say you can’t do that anymore. If you’re an election day voter, get in line,” said political consultant Chuck Coughlin.

Coughlin said just like any law change, it would have to work its way through the state legislature. He said it would be a night and day difference if changes were made to early ballot deadlines. “So, if they didn’t allow late earlies, drop-off day of, how much sooner would we find out results?” asked reporter Briana Whitney. “Election night,” Coughlin replied.

County officials said there are about 400,000 ballots left to count, and they’ll be doing about 70,000 ballots a day. It could be the middle of next week before we have final results.