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Pima County finishes counting Aug. 2 primary votes
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Pima County finishes counting Aug. 2 primary votes

Oro Valley mayor re-elected with early votes; Constable Bill Lake finds 756 write-in votes to run in new precinct

  • Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Pima County has finished counting ballots from the Aug. 2 primary election, officials said Thursday, but results still have to be approved and finalized by the Board of Supervisors on Monday and also canvassed by the Arizona secretary of state up to 14 days after the board vote.

This year’s primaries included a tight race in Oro Valley and congressional candidates vying for a bid in the Nov. 8 general election. Candidates for top state offices were also on the primary ballot, including governor, secretary of state and attorney general.

Voter turnout was around 36% for the county, with almost 228,000 ballots cast, according to a county report. Almost 197,000 of the ballots — 86% of the total — were early ballots. About 27,000 voters cast their ballot on Election Day. More than 4,000 ballots were provisional.

Pima County has about 626,000 registered voters. The last primary election in the county was in August 2020, and more than 226,000 voters cast early ballots that year, which was also the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oro Valley voters narrowly reelected Mayor Joe Winfield over former police chief, Danny Sharp. Winfield won 8,873 votes, just 285 more than Sharp, with almost 89% of the mayor's votes coming via early ballots. Sharp garnered more votes cast on Nov. 2, but not enough to overcome Winfield's lead.

On Election Day, Winfield only raked in 873 votes while Sharp saw 1,377 in his favor, but Winfield was still able to garner 831 more early votes than Sharp.

Bill Lake, the Republican write-in candidate for constable of Precinct 8, earned 769 votes, putting him well past the 242 votes he needed to appear on the ballot and challenge incumbent Democrat Deborah Martinez in the general election.

Martinez, who got almost 16,000 votes but is running unopposed, is under investigation for fraud, forgery and perjury by the state Constable Ethics, Standards and Training Board. Bill Lake, also known as William J. Lake-Wright, is the former F-16 pilot who serves as constable of Precinct 5. He was tapped last October to fill the seat. Martinez was appointed to her seat in March 2022. Earlier this year, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate the constable position in which Lake currently serves, citing the relative workload in combining it with neighboring precincts.

Councils for the towns of Marana, Sahuarita and Oro Valley and the city of South Tucson also had seats up for election at the primaries. Candidates to be the clerk of the Superior Court, justices of the peace or constables were running for office throughout Pima County, but many candidates ran unopposed. Arizona voters can check the results of local races through an interactive state webpage.

The primary election allowed Pima County to test out changes to voting this year that drew constant public scrutiny. Election Day voters were able to use any of the 129 vote centers in the county, a switch from precinct-based polling places, and saw new election technology, such as iPad and ballot printers, put to use.

County Administrator Jan Lesher thanked “the more than 4,000 poll workers” in a Thursday newsletter for working with the changes, and said they “are essential for the Recorder and Elections Department to conduct each countywide election.”

“We couldn’t do it without them,” she said. “The county used new technology for this election and the poll workers did a fabulous job adjusting to the new voter check-in procedure.”

Just prior to the in-person election, a staffer for the Elections Department bungled training by telling temporary election workers that voters registered with a political party can choose a different ballot. But officials were quick to inform workers that only independent voters can make their choice of Democratic or Republican ballots on Election Day.

Over the weekend, county officials conducted a hand-count audit with "no problems found."

The mandatory post-election audit is carried out after each election, and includes representatives from the county's political parties as well as government officials. The results of a hand count of votes in randomly selected precincts are compared with the machine counts.

"The audit confirms that the tabulation machines accurately counted the ballots," county officials said.

Through the beginning of the week, staff at the Recorder's Office were verifying early ballots dropped off on Election Day and provisional ballots, and completing ballot "curing." In that process, laid out in state election law, voters who have issues such as signature matching can verify that they did cast a ballot, so that it can be sent to the Elections Department to be counted.

Registered Republicans in Pima County had a voter turnout of 57%, a few points higher than Democrats at 51%.  Local Republicans also used the vote centers more, with more than 21,000 voting on Election Day versus only about 5,600 Democrats doing so.

However, more Democrats voted early, and the county has far more voters signed up with that party. About 119,000 Democrats sent in early ballots while about 77,000 Republicans did so. Republicans also cast about 2,500 provisional ballots while Democrats only about 1,700.

Libertarians had a 15% voter turnout, with 95 showing up on election day and 89 voting early — 695 total. Exactly 440 nonpartisan votes were sent in by mail and none were cast on Election Day.

Democratic and Republican winners of the primaries for the federal and state offices included:

  • Democrats Katie Hobbs vs. Republican Kari Lake for Arizona governor
  • Democrat Adrian Fontes vs. Republican Mark Finchem for Arizona secretary of state
  • Democrat Kris Mayes vs. Republican Abraham Hamadeh for Arizona attorney general
  • Democrat Kirsten Engel vs. Republican Juan Ciscomani for Congressional District 6

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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