Prop 203 Analysis: How Arizona's Medical Marijuana Measure Could Win; Plus, What Happened?

We've crunched the latest numbers, analyzed the trend and spoken to campaign experts about the incredibly close race of Proposition 203.

Our take: Arizona's medical marijuana measure will fail without a minor miracle. But we won't burst anyone's bubble yet, 'cause the race isn't finished. As you'll see below, the Prop could still eke out a win.

In our blog post this morning, we mentioned that two voting precincts from Pima County -- which voted "yes" in a big way for 203 -- were outstanding. Well, those votes came in this afternoon and didn't change the totals much. About 1,800 more votes were counted, but they were skewed the same way as other Pima County votes -- with about a 58 to 42 percent split.

The prop needs to do better than the status quo, if it's to win based on the tens of thousands of votes that will be counted in the next few days.

Statewide, 374,000 votes need to be counted, says Matthew Benson of the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. About 274,000 of those are in Maricopa County alone. Another 47,500 are from Pima County. The uncounted votes are made up of early ballots that were dropped off the polls on Election Day, and provisional ballots, which are cast when some problem affects a voter's normal ballot.

Prop 203 was still trailing by about 6,500 as of 5 p.m.

If the people who cast these early and provisional ballots in Maricopa County are the same type of people who mailed in their early ballots, the prop's will go down. For whatever reason, voters who mailed in their ballots skewed much more toward the "no" end. Our calculator shows that 57 percent of early voters supported Prop 203, while 60 percent didn't.

That's quite a different result than the overall Maricopa County total, which was more like 50-50. The reason: More Prop 203 supporters showed up in person to cast their votes. Of the walk-in voters in Maricopa County, 40 percent voted against Prop 203, while 43 voted for it.

Okay, now for the micro-analysis. (We'll ignore all counties but Pima and Maricopa for a moment.) Assuming that the remaining uncounted votes in Pima County will split along the same lines as the rest of Pima County, there still won't be nearly enough "yes" votes to counter the Maricopa trend -- if the trend is more like the mailed-in ballots.

Imagine for a moment, though, that maybe a lot of these early ballots were dropped off at the polls by procrastinating pot smokers. Maybe the early-ballot trend in Maricopa will be reversed, so that the Election Day ballot droppers are voting like the people who cast normal ballots yesterday. In that case, Prop 203 will win by a few thousand votes.

Spoiler Alert: Brad Nelson, the election director for Pima County, says he believes people who turn in their early ballots on Election Day vote the same as people who mail in their ballot. (Which would mean defeat.) Political strategist Jason Rose tells us today that the "yes" side on 203 will "close the gap" as more votes are counted -- but not close it enough.

"Sixty-five-hundred votes is a cause for concern," says Rose, who didn't work on either side of the issue.

So, what happened to the landslide predicted in mid-October by the Rocky Mountain Poll

Earl de Berge of the Behavior Research Center, which conducted the poll, says the "warning signs" were there: Older people and Republicans didn't like 203.

Clearly, that trend had a major effect on a day when Republicans turned out in droves to support their candidates.

What really hurt the prop, de Berge believes, is that Prop 203 supporters were "out-stealthed" in the final two weeks of the campaign.

"The main issue is they just didn't run a campaign," de Berge says, noting the lack of TV ads for the prop. "They didn't want to stir up controversy."

That worked fine for a while, but when opponents blanketed the Valley with anti-203 signs and lined up politicians to blast the measure, the 203 campaign didn't push back, he says.

Andrew Myers of the "Yes on 203" campaign writes in an e-mail that supporters "have zero plans of conceding anytime soon."

With that many votes uncounted, anything's possible.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.