Arizona midterm election turnout to be among highest in recent state history, Republic projects

Students at Arizona State University's Tempe campus were sent free pizza from Twitter users and the Arizona Democratic Party while waiting in line to vote on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018.

Arizona voters have rarely been this energized for a midterm election.

The Arizona Republic projects about 2.18 million voters, or 58.6 percent of those registered, will cast a ballot before the polls close at 7 p.m.

That would be the most votes cast in a midterm election in state history.

Even before Tuesday, more people had voted in this year’s midterms than did in the last midterm election in 2014. An estimated three-fourths of Arizona voters already will have cast their ballot before Tuesday.

If larger-than-expected numbers do show up at the polls Tuesday, this election could see the highest-ever turnout for a midterm — though still far short of the turnout in presidential election years.

 Some Arizona polling places have been moved. Was yours affected?

The highest voter turnout for a midterm since 1998 was in 2006, when 60.5 percent of voters cast ballots. 

Here are the midterm turnout percentages since 1998:

Early problems at the polls

Voters in the Phoenix-area ran into problems Tuesday morning with access to polls and technological failures that turned at least some away from voting.

One polling place in Chandler had been foreclosed overnight. Workers were able to access the site hours after it was supposed to open.

Voters at polling places from Deer Valley to downtown Phoenix to eastern Mesa reported long lines that poll workers blamed on the printers. And at least one polling place, in north Phoenix, ran out of ballots. Fontes acknowledged at a news conference that there were some issues with the printers but didn’t elaborate.

Fontes said the long lines voters might experience reflected the high turnout and the long ballot. He estimated 86,000 people cast votes in the county as of 9:50 a.m. About 350,000 people cast votes on Election Day in 2016.

Women projected to drive turnout

Election analysts have predicted unusually high turnout nationwide because of increased polarization among Americans and a backlash to President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric.

Analysts expect women, energized by the #MeToo movement and large numbers of women candidates, to drive much of the increased turnout. Women have made up more than half of the total votes cast so far,  Secretary of State’s Office data show.

Heading into Election Day, Republicans outpaced Democrats in returning mail ballots by 7.5 percentage points, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

Republicans had an even larger cushion at the start of early voting, but Democrats closed the gap as early voting drew to a close, making this the smallest Republican lead in returned ballots in recent election history.

Monitoring the vote count

This year for the first time, The Republic will provide an estimate of votes outstanding for all the statewide races on Election Day and in the days after, as ballots are counted. 

The Republic is estimating the percentage of ballots to be counted because the traditional metric for estimating the votes remaining — the number of precincts reported — has become outdated. Even when all precincts have reported their tallies Tuesday night, there will still be hundreds of thousands of early ballots statewide left to be counted.Counting all of them can take a week or more.

Using its projection for overall general election turnout, The Republic will estimate the number of ballots left to be counted,which can reveal whether enough uncounted ballots remain to leave in question the outcome of a given race.

To make its projection The Republic built three models: one assuming low turnout, of about 2.1 million voters; The Republic’s expected turnout model of 2.18 million projected voters; and a high-turnout model, with 2.27 million voters and a turnout of 61 percent. The model will be adjusted as votes are tallied Tuesday night. 

The Republic will provide projections of the outstanding votes for U.S Senate, governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, state superintendent, the Corporation Commission and Congressional Districts 1, 2, 6, 8 and 9.

200 polling places in Maricopa County not ready for Election Day

Watch for these projections on Twitter and at azcentral.com starting Election Day and continuing during the following days until all of the ballots are counted.

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