It took more than three weeks to count all the provisional ballots, but the numbers now show that Sheriff Joe Arpaio won a 6th term in Maricopa County, Arizona with only 50.7% of the vote. He beat Democratic challenger Paul Penzone by a little over six points, in a dubious three-way race that brought concern and skepticism. And he had to fight for his political life to get that lead. As the Arizona Republic wrote of the win, “That’s not a mandate; it’s a warning sign.”
Arpaio’s re-election campaign cost over $7 million (much of it from out-of-state anti-immigrant groups). That is about $10 per vote and it qualifies his campaign as one of the most expensive Sheriffs races in history.
That 6.09 lead may seem substantial, but it’s a close shave by Arpaio’s standards. In fact, he has never been reelected by fewer than 12 points, in two decades in office. Many groups fought to register Latino votes, including a dedicated group of high school students called Adios Arpaio, which registered over 30,000 Latino voters.
Analysts say provisional ballots, which were about 15% more this year than in 2008, slowed down the vote counting. The majority of Arizona’s provisional ballots came from voters who had requested early ballots and then also tried to cast a vote on Election Day. Allessandra Soler, head of the state’s ACLU chapter, expressed concerned that some voters never received their early ballots at all. There were countless stories (like this one) of people showing up to vote with proper identification and paperwork, only to be denied.
Taking the long view, Arpaio now plans on hiring people to do outreach to the Latino community to improve relations. But his harassment and hatred for undocumented immigrants has not mellowed one bit. In mid-November he wrote the following in a press release, “More and more illegal aliens are attempting to escape which places my deputies in dangerous positions. In the near future I will be issuing automatic weapons for all my deputies.” Let’s not forget that Arpaio is still being investigated by the Department of Justice for racial profiling.
As evidenced by the number of campaign supporters he has outside of Arizona, Arpaio has had far-reaching influence on immigration policy and policing across the country. Now is the time to start working to make sure this is the last term for “America’s toughest sheriff.” For Maricopa County, and for the rest of the country, let’s say “Adios Arpaio!”