Why Hasn’t Arizona Been Called in the 2020 Election


The Associated Press and Fox News have called Arizona for Joe Biden. The New York Times has not.

In most races, The Times automatically accepts the race calls made by The A.P. But in the most important races, we independently evaluate whether to accept an A.P. call, based on our own analysis.

The main reason we have not yet accepted the call in Arizona? We do not believe there’s solid enough data on the votes that remain to be counted after Election Day. The data we do have suggests that President Trump could fare well. Mr. Biden was and is still favored in our view. But on Tuesday night and afterward, there was no way to preclude, based on hard evidence, the possibility that Mr. Trump could win. That’s what a race call means to us.

As of 1:30 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, CNN, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, DecisionDesk HQ and Reuters had not called Arizona.

The Associated Press stands by its call. Associated Press calls are displayed by hundreds of newspapers nationwide, as well as by Google. Sally Buzbee, executive editor of The A.P., said: “The Associated Press continues to watch and analyze vote count results from Arizona as they come in. We will follow the facts in all cases.”

The late count in Arizona includes ballots in three categories: ballots that arrived in the mail in the final days before the election; mail ballots that were dropped off at polling places on Election Day; and provisional ballots, which are given to voters who cannot be validated as eligible to vote when they appear on Election Day. Usually, all three lean Democratic. This year, it’s not so clear.

Arizona is a state with many permanent absentee voters, who automatically receive absentee ballots in the mail. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats among these voters. This year, Democrats sent in their ballots extremely quickly, giving them a big lead in the early mail vote. But as a result, the voters who received mail ballots but had not yet returned them were overwhelmingly Republican. There was no way to know whether they would return their ballots or just vote on Election Day. But if they did mail in their ballots, the late count could at least conceivably break overwhelmingly for the president.

The voters who returned their ballots in the last few days before the election appeared to be registered Republicans over Democrats by around a 20-point margin. This data was publicly available before the election. There is no data, at least available to us, on the party registration of voters who turned in their mail ballots on Election Day.

So far, Mr. Trump has indeed won late mail ballots in Arizona. In results released Wednesday night, he won the votes by 23 points (though this included some late Election Day vote). As a result, he has closed his deficit to 2.4 points in the state — or about 69,000 votes, with maybe 400,000 votes left to be counted.

If 400,000 votes remain, Mr. Trump would need to win the remaining vote by around 17 points. His edge in the results released Wednesday night certainly keeps that possibility alive, and so we are still not able to project a winner.

But there are reasons to think Mr. Biden may do better as the count goes on. Traditionally, the mail ballots dropped off on Election Day tend to be better for Democrats, and those ballots tend to be counted later. If that’s true again this year, the later ballots should trend toward Mr. Biden. The provisional ballots may ultimately back him as well, although the relatively Republican vote on Election Day at least complicates that possibility.

Taken together, Mr. Biden is still the solid favorite to win the state. But there still isn’t conclusive evidence that Mr. Trump won’t gain what’s left by a wide enough margin to win.

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