The 2020 presidential election is proving to be a tight race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. One of the key battleground states was Arizona, traditionally a reliable red state. But polls ahead of election day suggested it could swing blue for the first time since 1996.
Election observers have been cautious about projecting anticipated winners in states where the vote total is close, and Arizona is one of those states. But around 11:20 p.m., Fox News projected that Biden had won the Grand Canyon State and its 11 electoral votes.
However, no other news outlets followed Fox’s lead. Trump campaign senior advisor Jason Miller called on the network to retract its projection and critics argued that there were too many outstanding ballots left to be counted to make a call.
Here’s what you need to know:
Miller Argued Fox News Was Trying to ‘Invalidate’ Certain Votes & Arizona’s Governor Agreed the Call Was Premature
Fox News made its projection in Arizona with this announcement on its live election blog: “The Fox News Decision Desk can now project that former Vice President Joe Biden will win the state of Arizona, dramatically narrowing the president’s pathway to reelection. It is the first state of the night where Trump loses a state he won in 2016.” Chief political anchor Bret Baier also shared the statement on his Twitter handle.
Senior advisor Jason Miller took to social media shortly after Fox News made its projection to express his frustration with the call. He pointed out that the Trump campaign had encouraged its supporters to vote in-person on Election Day and accused Fox of trying to “invalidate” those votes. He urged the network to retract its early call.
In a series of tweets, Miller wrote that Fox News was a “complete outlier in calling Arizona” and that “other media outlets should not follow suit.” He added, “There are still 1M+ Election Day votes out there waiting to be counted – we pushed our people to vote on Election Day, but now Fox News is trying to invalidate their votes!”
Miller argued that the remaining votes yet to be counted could still significantly shift the race. He wrote, “We only need 61% of the outstanding, uncounted Election Day votes in Arizona to win. These votes are coming from ‘our counties,’ and the 61% figure is very doable based on what our other Election Day votes are looking like.”
Miller further added, “WAY too soon to be calling Arizona…way too soon. We believe over 2/3 of those outstanding Election Day voters are going to be for Trump. Can’t believe Fox was so anxious to pull the trigger here after taking so long to call Florida. Wow.”
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey also weighed in on the Fox News projection. He agreed with Miller’s assessment that the projection had been premature. Ducey wrote on Twitter, “It’s far too early to call the election in Arizona. Election Day votes are not fully reported, and we haven’t even started to count early ballots dropped off at the polls. In AZ, we protected Election Day. Let’s count the votes — all the votes — before making declarations.”
Fox News Also Projected Mark Kelly Had Defeated Senator Martha McSally
Fox News also made a projection in the pivotal Senate race between incumbent Martha McSally and Democratic challenger Mark Kelly. The network projected around 11:20 p.m. EST on November 3 that “Democrat Mark Kelly will unseat Republican Senator Martha McSally, turning the seat from red to blue.”
Kelly, however, did not appear ready to accept the Fox News projection. In a live speech to voters, he expressed confidence about his chances of winning. But he did not declare victory and referenced that the votes were not yet done being counted.
Around 12:20 a.m., McSally’s communications director, Caroline Anderegg, issued a statement on the senator’s behalf:
Like Mark said, every vote should be counted. With one million votes to be counted and no Election Day results reported from Maricopa County, the decision to make a call at this point is irresponsible. We will continue to wait for votes to come in. This race is not over.
Arizona Has 4.2 Million Registered Voters But Only 2.5 Million Had Been Counted as of 1 a.m. on November 4
Heavy partnered with Decision Desk HQ to provide real-time election results as the votes were tallied. As of 1 a.m. on November 4, approximately 2.5 million votes in Arizona had been counted. Biden had about 1.3 million votes and Trump had earned about 1.1. million. (Keep in mind, these numbers are updating continuously).
But, as Miller and Ducey correctly pointed out, there were still a lot of votes that had not yet been entered into that tabulation. As of November 2, at least 2.6 million people in Arizona had voted early, AZFamily reported.
Arizona has more than 4.2 million registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s office. While it’s unlikely that every single registered voter showed up to cast a ballot, it’s safe to assume that there was a sizable number of votes uncounted when Fox News projected the state for Biden.