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Arizona Still Counting Votes, With Biden Maintaining Lead

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Arizona, as we note, is still counting ballots. The Associated Press, which NPR follows, has called the state for Joe Biden but is continuing to monitor the count, as is NPR's Eric Westervelt, who joins us from Phoenix. Eric, thanks for being with us.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Morning, Scott.

SIMON: President Trump has narrowed the gap in Arizona, but he still trails Joe Biden. What's the latest?

WESTERVELT: Yeah. President Trump still trails by about 30,000 votes in Arizona. He's made up some ground here in Maricopa County, where I am, which makes up about 60% of the state's electorate. But in every count update, Scott, the president, he's just not getting enough, not getting a high percentage, you know, enough to catch up with Joe Biden. On Friday, for example, he - the president got about 51% of the ballots counted here. He needs to get about 58%. So he's still falling short. And the campaign - the Trump campaign insists, look; we can eventually catch up and capture the state's 11 electoral votes. But today will likely be the last big release of updates from Maricopa County. And unless this trend radically shifts, it just doesn't appear the president will make up the ground.

SIMON: Eric, so why did the AP called the race for Mr. Biden but other news outlets have not?

WESTERVELT: Yeah. The AP called the race for Biden early Wednesday. NPR follows the AP's calls on that. Fox News also called it for Biden. Both networks said it appeared that the lead was insurmountable. The decision, by Fox News especially, enraged Trump supporters and the Trump campaign. They still talk about it here on the ground. They're angry. The campaign says those networks, you know, they made the decision prematurely. But the AP and Fox, Scott, are sticking by their projections.

SIMON: And, Eric, let me ask you about some of the anger you mentioned. Some Trump supporters have shown up to demonstrate outside of the Maricopa County Election Department. What has that scene been like?

WESTERVELT: It's a colorful, eclectic mix with a few hundred Trump supporters who continue to protest right outside the office where the counting is taking place. I mean, they're singing, praying, making speeches. There are several conspiracy theorists waving signs about the far-right conspiracy QAnon. Many folks are heavily armed, openly carrying semi-automatic weapons. But it's been boisterous but peaceful.

And I have to add, Scott, there's this sort of whiff of nostalgia and loss among some of the Trump supporters here as they confront the likelihood of no more Trump rallies anytime soon, an end to these, you know, mass gatherings they embraced and loved and enjoyed but, the critics point out, you know, often peddled misinformation and intolerance. And those I've talked to outside, Scott, they just don't trust the process going on inside. They offer these vague allegations that something is wrong, something is amiss. You know, the secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, here has repeatedly said there's no evidence of fraud. I met one protester, Louis Pingtella from Scottsdale, who was wrapped in a Trump flag and carrying a sign.

You've got a big sign that says stop hiding the ballots. They're inside counting the ballot.

LOUIS PINGTELLA: We think - just suspicious. OK, so in this day and age, right now, especially, I think you need to be transparent.

WESTERVELT: And, Scott, the county is, in fact, being transparent. Like every county here, they're live streaming every room of the counting process on the Web. It doesn't make for a must-see TV or fascinating watching, but it's out there for all to see.

SIMON: And what can we watch in the next few hours?

WESTERVELT: Well, the vote continues. Election officials say statewide there's still about 150,000 votes to be counted, including some provisional ballots. The Trump campaign has said they're considering legal action. But, Scott, it's not at all clear on what grounds and what that might look like, especially since there's, as I said, no evidence here of any fraud.

SIMON: NPR's Eric Westervelt in Phoenix, thanks so much for being with us.

WESTERVELT: Good to talk with you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.