The razor-thin elections for Nevada’s Senate seat and Arizona’s governorship have yet to be called on Saturday as counties in both states work to whittle down the tens of thousands of ballots that still need to be counted.
Democrat Katie Hobbs leads Republican Kari Lake by about 31,000 votes in the Arizona governor’s race as of Saturday morning, following the reporting of roughly 80,000 ballots in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous. And as if Friday evening, Republican Adam Laxalt is holding onto a slim lead of just more than 800 votes over Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
While those races remain in play, CNN projected Friday that Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly will defeat Republican Blake Masters in Arizona, and Republican Joe Lombardo will knock off Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in Nevada.
Kelly’s Senate win puts Democrats one seat away from maintaining control of the Senate, with just the Nevada race uncalled. If Cortez Masto wins, Democrats have at least 50 seats needed regardless of the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff. If Laxalt wins, the Georgia run-off will determine Senate control, as it did in 2021.
Control of the House, meanwhile, remains up in the air, with 21 races still uncalled. Democrats have won 203 seats so far, while Republicans have won 211 (218 seats are needed to control the House), according to CNN projections. Many of the uncalled House races are in California.
Regardless of the ultimate makeup of both chambers next year, Republicans’ lackluster midterm performance has prompted a backlash against House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, while a handful of Senate Republicans are calling for a delay in next week’s scheduled leadership elections.
Here’s what to know as Election Day turns to Election Weekend:
In Clark County, Nevada’s largest, which includes Las Vegas, CNN estimates there are roughly 24,000 more mail-in ballots to be counted, along with about 15,000 provisional ballots and ballots that need to be cured.
In Washoe County, Nevada’s second-most populous, there were about 10,000 ballots counted on Friday, and CNN estimates there are roughly 12,000 remaining.
Clark County registrar Joe Gloria said Friday that the county expected to be largely finished with the remaining mail-in votes by Saturday. Those ballots are being inspected at the county’s counting board, Gloria said.
State law allows for mail-in ballots to be received in Nevada through Saturday, though the ballots need to have been postmarked by Election Day to be valid.
Political organizations, especially Democratic-leaning unions, that spent months urging people to vote in Nevada’s key Senate race are now turning their focus toward “curing” flawed mail-in ballots in the still-uncalled contest.
“Curing” is a process in which voters correct problems with their mail ballot, ensuring that it gets counted. This can mean validating that a ballot is truly from them by adding a missing signature, or by addressing signature-match issues. The deadline for voters to “cure” their ballots in Nevada is Monday, November 14, according to state law.
Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, reported about 80,000 more votes late Friday evening, which included many of the mail-in ballots that were dropped off at polling places on Election Day.
There are about 275,000 ballots left to count in county, according to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates.
Gates said he expects that if they continue counting at the same pace – around 60,000 to 80,000 ballots a day – the county should be done counting by “very early next week.”
Pima County, Arizona’s second-most populous and home to Tucson, is expected to have roughly 85,000 ballots left to count at the end of Friday, Constance Hargrove, elections director for the county, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and John King on Friday.
Hargove said that she hopes by Monday that Pima County will have the majority of the remaining votes counted. She had previously told CNN that all the votes would be counted by Monday morning. On Friday night, however, she clarified that would no longer be the case due to a large batch of around 80,000 votes received from the recorder’s office earlier that day.
Gates pushed back against allegations of misconduct from Masters, the Republican National Committee, and the Republican Party of Arizona on Friday night, saying they were “offensive” to the election workers.
“The suggestion by the Republican National Committee that there is something untoward going on here in Maricopa County is absolutely false and again, is offensive to these good elections workers,” he said.
On Friday night, the RNC and the Republican Party of Arizona tweeted a statement criticizing the county’s process, and demanding that it require “around-the-clock shifts of ballot processing” until all of the votes are counted, along with “regular, accurate public updates.” The groups also threatened that they would “not hesitate to take legal action if necessary.”
Addressing the specific accusations from the RNC statement, Gates said: “I would prefer that if there are concerns that they have, that they communicate those to us here. I’m a Republican. Three of my colleagues on the board are Republicans. Raise these issues with us and discuss them with us, as opposed to making these baseless claims.”
“They’re hyping up the rhetoric here, which is exactly what we don’t need to do,” he added.
Responding to claims that the count is “taking too long,” Gates said the county’s pace is in line with previous years.
“Over the past couple of decades, on average it takes 10 to 12 days to complete the count. That’s not because of anything Maricopa County has decided to do. That’s because of how Arizona law is set up, and that’s what we do here at Maricopa County, we follow the law to make sure that the count is accurate.”
After suffering setbacks in court, Arizona officials who have sought to conduct a hand count audit of a rural county’s election results are considering a scaled-down version of their plan that could still inject chaos and delay into the process of certifying the state’s results.
The confrontation in Cochise County has led to worries of potential delays in determining the winners in a state where key races remain too close to call. The current deadline for Arizona counties to certify results is November 28 – or 20 days after the final day of voting.
Cochise County, home to roughly 125,000 Arizonans, had planned to audit 100% of ballots by hand, one of several places where there’s been a push to hand-count elections as a result of former President Donald Trump’s lies about fraud in the 2020 election.
On Thursday, a state appeals court made clear in a 2-1 vote that it would not be reversing a court order barring the full hand count in time for the plan to be revived for the midterms. But a lawyer for Cochise County Recorder David Stevens – a proponent of the hand audit – said that the county isn’t giving up on its efforts to conduct a hand conduct that goes beyond the usual procedures.
Trump, who saw several key endorsed candidates fizzle out in the general election, is trying to cast blame on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and gin up opposition to the Kentucky Republican ahead of Senate GOP leadership elections next week, CNN reported Friday.
While McConnell has locked down enough support to remain leader, he is facing calls from Senate Republicans to delay next week’s leadership contests – which several GOP sources said is unlikely.
McCarthy, meanwhile, is facing new headwinds from the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus, who are withholding their support for McCarthy’s speakership bid and beginning to lay out a list of demands.
If Republicans win the House, McCarthy’s task of becoming speaker is more complicated than McConnell’s because he needs 218 votes to win the gavel – not just a majority of Republicans.
House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry met with McCarthy in his office Friday. He said afterward that the meeting “went well” but wouldn’t say if McCarthy has his – or the Freedom Caucus’ – support for speaker.
“We’re having discussions,” Perry said.