Primary voters served up a mixed bag of results in Tuesday’s primaries, while voting problems fueled a sense of exasperation that Arizona just can’t seem to pull off a trouble-free election.
Here are key takeaways from the returns:
It’s the year of the woman
Arizona is set to elect its first female U.S. senator, as Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won their respective primaries and are set for a November showdown.
At least seven of the 20 people who will be running in the federal Senate and House races this fall are women. Two others were leading in races too close to call.
The 2nd Congressional District race in November could be another all-female contest. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat who defeated two other women, won the Democratic nomination in the Tucson-based district. Republican Lea Marquez Peterson was leading the GOP primary late Tuesday.
The 8th Congressional District will see a familiar lineup, as incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko easily bested challenger Sandra Dowling. Lesko will face Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in a rematch of their April special-election race to fill a House vacancy in the West Valley-based district.
Women ruled … but not if they had baggage
Two female incumbents running in statewide races went down in the GOP primary.
Secretary of State Michele Reagan was easily defeated by political newcomer Steve Gaynor. He attacked Reagan’s record, including widely reported problems with election management in 2016.
He topped it off with a Trump-like appeal to anti-immigrant fervor by criticizing Reagan for a settlement her office reached on voter registration. That settlement was approved by the Republican state attorney general, but it apparently didn’t matter.
In the state superintendent of schools race, incumbent Diane Douglas appeared to be on her way out. Douglas’ early clashes with Gov. Doug Ducey over who would lead education policy, as well as her inability to cultivate public approval, made her vulnerable in a five-candidate GOP field that pitted her against four men.
Turnout was high, especially for Democrats
It may take a day or so to get the final numbers, but voters were on track to set an all-time high for ballots cast, especially in a midterm year.
Democratic turnout was the biggest reason for this. According to figures from Garrett Archer, who tracks results for the secretary of state, Democrats entered the day needing about 300 voters on Tuesday to top their previous mark.
This is likely due in part to the party’s much-longer list of candidates this year compared to previous cycles. The governor’s race is a prime example of new competition.
The bigger question is whether the primary turnout portends a banner year for Democrats in November’s general election. Still, vote totals showed the GOP turned out more votes compared to Democrats, meaning any hope for a “blue wave” will depend on the Democrats attracting independents and moderate Republicans.
Some Arizonans faced long lines as they headed to the polls to vote in primaries on election day.
New technology doesn’t debut well
More than five dozen Maricopa County polling places couldn’t open to voters on Tuesday morning due to non-functioning, or malfunctioning equipment.
The county rolled out a new system that allows voters to scan their IDs to check them against the registration database, then print a ballot custom-made for that voter’s local and legislative races.
But in 62 precincts, the connection between the SiteBook check-in system and the printer wasn’t working for much of the morning, angering voters and recalling the disastrous 2016’s presidential-preference election and its long lines.
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes and the county’s contractor, Insight Enterprises, pointed fingers at each other for the problems. Fontes won election two years ago on the heels of the 2016 problems, promising to bring improved practices to the recorder’s office.
He apologized for the problems but said once the connections were restored, the new system worked well.
Early voting marches ever upward
More than 80 percent of the statewide vote was in before election day dawned, due to Arizona’s early-voting provisions.
Voters increasingly are opting to vote by mail, as early as a month before election day. This trend may be gaining even more momentum as voters grow wary of the reliability of voting at the polls: Long lines in 2016’s presidential-preference election, coupled with the problems encountered Tuesday, make the mail-in ballot look like a safer bet.
But given that many voters get an early ballot, only to wait until the last minute to walk it into a polling place, voters should get used to delayed election results. That’s because processing these “late earlies,” as the ballots are called, doesn’t start for several days after the election.
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