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 of 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:
All eyes on Nevada with Senate in the balance
In Clark County, Nevada’s largest, which includes Las Vegas, county officials estimate there are roughly 22,000 more mail-in ballots to be counted, along with more than 5,000 provisional ballots and ballots that need to be cured.
In Washoe County, Nevada’s second-most populous and home to Reno, CNN estimates that roughly 12,000 ballots remain to be counted, along with more than 5,000 provisional ballots and ballots that need to be cured.
Clark County will also release results from its remaining 22,000 mail-in ballots on Saturday, according to registrar Joe Gloria.
Gloria said during a news conference on Saturday that the results will be released “sometime this afternoon or early evening,” and he estimated that this could happen around 7 p.m. ET at the earliest.
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. An additional 268 ballots arrived by mail on Saturday, according to Gloria, but only ballots that were postmarked by Election Day will count.
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. There are 7,139 mail ballots that could still be “cured,” Gloria said Saturday.
Gloria also said Saturday that there were still 5,555 provisional ballots that need to be adjudicated and potentially counted. Provisional ballots are used when there is an issue at an in-person polling place, like if it’s unclear if someone is registered or if they show up at the wrong precinct. The county examines the provisional ballots and verifies that the voter was eligible – so some, but not all, of these 5,555 ballots will count.
A Nevada Republican strategist told CNN on Saturday that the mood inside Laxalt’s campaign was “awful” and that different factions of the candidate’s operation have begun the internal blame game, feeling it is a forgone conclusion that Cortez Masto will take the lead soon.
When asked by CNN to describe the mood inside Laxalt’s campaign, the strategist said, “Shocked and depressed.”
In response to CNN’s reporting, Laxalt’s press secretary, Brian Freimuth, said the campaign team “remains confident and hopeful, and any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate and poorly-sourced.”
Josh Marcus-Blank, a spokesman for the Cortez Masto campaign, told CNN the campaign remains “confident.”
Laxalt on Saturday acknowledged his narrowing lead over Cortez Masto in the too-close-to-call race, tweeting that the mostly mail-in ballots being counted were favoring Democrats by higher margins than expected.
“This has narrowed our victory window. The race will come down to 20-30K Election Day Clark drop off ballots,” Laxalt tweeted.
“If they are GOP precincts or slightly DEM leaning then we can still win. If they continue to trend heavy DEM then she will overtake us,” he added.
Laxalt, a former state attorney general, has previously made false claims about the 2020 election in Nevada. A co-chair of Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign in the Silver State, he played a leading role in post-election legal efforts to reverse Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
Maricopa County reports 80,000 ballots, more to go
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.
In a speech in Phoenix, on Saturday, Kelly thanked state elections officials, “honorable Republicans and Democrats, who are doing the important work of making sure that Arizonans’ votes and voices are heard – their votes are counted as quickly and as transparently as possible.”
Masters was not ready to concede, tweeting Saturday that “we are going to make sure that every legal vote is counted.”
“If, at the end, Senator Kelly has more of them than I do, then I will congratulate him on a hard-fought victory,” he added.
Meanwhile, supporters of Lake gathered outside the Maricopa election center on Saturday. Gates told CNN’s Jim Acosta that officials have every reason to believe it will remain peaceful and he asked for patience from everyone.
“The folks here in the building, they’re aware of what’s going on outside,” Gates said, adding:” We have every reason to be believe that they will continue to be peaceful.”
He continued: “The people in Maricopa County overwhelmingly appreciate the work that’s being done by these folks, the long hours that they’re working, but people are excited to get the results and I completely understand that. We just ask for their patience.”
Republicans attack the counting
Gates on Saturday accused Masters of spreading “misinformation” about the vote-count process, as election workers continue to tally the remaining votes in Maricopa.
“It’s really, really unfortunate that some candidates, some activists are deciding to spread this misinformation,” Gates told Acosta when asked about GOP accusations that the count is too slow. “We have spent weeks at Maricopa County, getting that word out that people should not anticipate results on election night or even the next day. That it does take this long,”
Gates, a Republican, added: “These allegations that are being made by some of the candidates and other political activists that this count is taking too long … those folks are not paying attention to the history of how we have counted votes here in Arizona for decades now. The average time over the last couple of decades to get through our count is 10 to 12 days.”
This comes after 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.”
Another potential wrench in Arizona certification
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 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 count that goes beyond the usual procedures.
Election fallout for both House and Senate GOP leaders
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.
CNN’s Dana Bash, Annie Grayer, Kyung Lah, Christina Maxouris, Dan Merica, Gabby Orr, Manu Raju, Alex Rogers, Fredreka Schouten, Tierney Sneed, Tara Subramaniam, Gary Tuchman, Kate Sullivan, Shawna Mizelle, Aaron Pellish, Daniel Dale, Marshall Cohen, Rosa Flores, Sam Fossum, Sonnet Swire and Rosalina Nieves contributed to this report.