Arizona's Prop 123 Winning, but Still Too Close to Call

The fate of an Arizona ballot measure that would give more money to schools won't be known until tomorrow afternoon or evening, election officials now say.

Proposition 123, pushed by Governor Doug Ducey and put on the ballot by a referendum approved by the Arizona Legislature, was winning by just 8,806 votes as of this morning. That's less than 1 percent of the 921,170 votes counted so far.

Voters overwhelmingly approved Prop 124, the second question on the ballot in Tuesday's special election, by a margin of 70 percent to 30 percent. That measure makes several reforms that aim to guarantee billions of dollars in pension money for retired public servants, while capping future costs for taxpayers.

But it's the school-reform bill that has captured public attention in recent months. Backed by teachers and lawmakers across the political aisle, the measure has been helped by a $5 million ad blitz. It would increase the amount of cash taken from the State Land Trust each year, reducing the trust's payouts in the future but providing money immediately for schools to help pay for a long-running court battle over funding.

Critics, including State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, claim it's an unnecessary and costly raid on the trust.

Benjamin McCarthy of Phoenix and Jessica Dahl of Chandller, after voting in Tuesday's special electionEXPAND
Benjamin McCarthy of Phoenix and Jessica Dahl of Chandller, after voting in Tuesday's special election
Ray Stern

With more than 76,000 ballots left to count in Maricopa County, the state's largest county, the election results won't be known until Thursday afternoon or evening, the county's spokeswoman, Elizabeth Bartholomew, said this morning.

More than 50 full-time and temporary election workers will be processing the remaining votes, Bartholomew says. 

New Times left a message for officials in Pima County, the state's second-largest, and will update this article when they call back.

Matt Roberts, spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, says about 100,000 ballots remain uncounted statewide. Many are early ballots and provisional ballots dropped off at polls.

Bartholomew says voting went smoothly on Tuesday, in contrast with the nightmare of the presidential preference election on March 22. Outrage and a federal investigation followed that election after voters waited in line for up to five hours. The problem was mainly one of math: Maricopa County provided just 60 polling locations for the 88,000 people who showed up.

This time it was the opposite problem: The county erred on the side of caution and provided 116 polling locations, but just 43,000 residents cast ballots there. (The vast majority of voters these days utilize mail-in ballots.)

"It was much better than the last election," Bartholomew says. During an hour she spent at the Church of the Beatitudes in Glendale, one of many sites that experienced excessive lines on March 22, only about 15 voters showed up, she says.

Even though Tuesday's election wasn't as high profile, some voters said the lines of March 22 were on their minds.

"I thought it was possible there could have been long lines," Benjamin McCarthy of Phoenix said after casting his ballot on Tuesday, adding that because he had the day off, he was prepared either way.


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