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Members of the group 'Arizona Republicans Who Believe In Treating Others With Respect' wave flags and hold signs in support of Joe Biden, during evening rush hour in Phoenix on Oct. 16, 2020.

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Four years ago, Chey Tor reluctantly cast a ballot for Donald Trump. A lifelong Republican from Scottsdale, Ariz., Mr. Tor had his reservations about the New York developer but thought a businessman and Washington outsider could do some good for the country.

This year however, the 39-year-old realtor switched his registration to Democrat and voted for Joe Biden, forming part of a wave of moderate voters in Arizona whose shifting allegiances appear to be helping to tip the traditionally Republican state into Democratic hands for the first time in decades.

“We’ve had an amazing four years economically. But socially it’s been a complete, complete disaster,” Mr. Tor said. “I’d rather go back to the ways that people are more cordial, more polite.”

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Biden won the presidency by rebuilding the “blue wall” of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, historically Democratic-voting states that backed Mr. Trump in 2016. But this election showed that another story is playing out in traditionally Republican states of the American Southwest such as Arizona, where Democrats saw strong support in urban centres and both parties fought a fierce battle for the fast-growing suburbs.

Arizona presidential results

MARGIN OF LEAD

Biden

49.5%

10 pts. or more

Trump

49.0%

Less than 10 pts.

Others

1.51%

Expected vote

counted: 98.0%

11 Electoral

College votes

Maricopa County

Biden: 1,027,269

Trump: 980,494

Phoenix

Other: 31,069

Tucson

SOURCE: AP Election Research Group as of Nov. 9 at 12 pm EST;

Arizona secretary of state

Arizona breakdown

The breakdown below uses data from AP VoteCast, a survey by The Associated Press that

was conducted in all 50 states in the lead up to election night, to showcase the split in

support between Democrats and Republicans.

Total interviews: 3,772

Margin of error: 2%

Joe Biden

Donald Trump

PARTY AFFILIATION

Total (%)

Democrat

Republican

96

3

44

Democrat/lean Democrat

51

Republican/lean Republican

9

90

Independent

6

58

33

WHERE VOTERS LIVE...

Urban

40

27

59

51

50

Suburban

48

13

58

Small town

41

Rural

55

43

10

BY RACE

43

White urban

18

55

53

White suburban

38

45

White small town/rural

15

63

36

33

Non-white urban

9

67

42

Non-white suburban

13

56

Non-white small town/rural

7

56

42

BY EDUCATION

Urban college

10

58

41

Suburban college

20

53

45

Small town/Rural college

6

46

54

Urban non-college

17

60

39

Suburban non-college

30

45

54

Small town/Rural non-college

17

41

57

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 due to third-party candidates not being included.

JOHN SOPINSKi/ THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: data via ap votecast

Arizona presidential results

MARGIN OF LEAD

Biden

49.5%

10 pts. or more

Trump

49.0%

Less than 10 pts.

Others

1.51%

Expected vote

counted: 98.0%

11 Electoral

College votes

Maricopa County

Biden: 1,027,269

Trump: 980,494

Phoenix

Other: 31,069

Tucson

SOURCE: AP Election Research Group as of Nov. 9 at 12 pm EST;

Arizona secretary of state

Arizona breakdown

The breakdown below uses data from AP VoteCast, a survey by The Associated

Press that was conducted in all 50 states in the lead up to election night, to

showcase the split in support between Democrats and Republicans.

Total interviews: 3,772

Margin of error: 2%

Joe Biden

Donald Trump

PARTY AFFILIATION

Total (%)

Democrat

Republican

96

3

44

Democrat/lean Democrat

51

Republican/lean Republican

9

90

Independent

6

58

33

WHERE VOTERS LIVE...

Urban

40

27

59

51

50

Suburban

48

13

58

Small town

41

Rural

55

43

10

BY RACE

43

White urban

18

55

53

White suburban

38

45

White small town/rural

15

63

36

33

Non-white urban

9

67

42

Non-white suburban

13

56

Non-white small town/rural

7

56

42

BY EDUCATION

Urban college

10

58

41

Suburban college

20

53

45

Small town/Rural college

6

46

54

Urban non-college

17

60

39

30

Suburban non-college

45

54

Small town/Rural non-college

17

41

57

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 due to third-party candidates not being included.

JOHN SOPINSKi/ THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: data via ap votecast

Arizona presidential results

MARGIN OF LEAD

Biden

49.5%

10 pts. or more

Trump

49.0%

Less than 10 pts.

Others

1.51%

Expected vote

counted: 98.0%

11 Electoral

College votes

Maricopa County

Biden: 1,027,269

Trump: 980,494

Phoenix

Other: 31,069

Tucson

SOURCE: AP Election Research Group as of Nov. 9 at 12 pm EST;

Arizona secretary of state

Arizona breakdown

The breakdown below uses data from AP VoteCast, a survey by The Associated Press that

was conducted in all 50 states in the lead up to election night, to showcase the split in sup-

port between Democrats and Republicans.

Total interviews: 3,772

Margin of error: 2%

Joe Biden

Donald Trump

PARTY AFFILIATION

Total (%)

Democrat

Republican

3

96

44

Democrat/lean Democrat

51

Republican/lean Republican

9

90

Independent

6

58

33

WHERE VOTERS LIVE...

Urban

40

27

59

51

50

Suburban

48

13

58

Small town

41

Rural

55

43

10

BY RACE

43

White urban

18

55

53

White suburban

38

45

White small town/rural

15

63

36

33

Non-white urban

9

67

42

Non-white suburban

13

56

Non-white small town/rural

7

56

42

BY EDUCATION

Urban college

10

58

41

Suburban college

20

53

45

Small town/Rural college

6

46

54

Urban non-college

17

60

39

30

Suburban non-college

45

54

Small town/Rural non-college

17

41

57

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 due to third-party candidates not being included.

JOHN SOPINSKi/ THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: data via ap votecast

Votes were still being tallied in Arizona on Monday, though Mr. Biden retained a slim 0.5-percentage-point lead. The Trump campaign sued Arizona on the weekend, alleging voting irregularities in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous region.

The lawsuit is part of a series of court challenges Mr. Trump launched in a handful of states, refusing to concede the election until all his legal options are exhausted. Trump supporters took to the streets of Phoenix to protest the results of the election in Arizona.

Regardless of the final outcome of the vote in Arizona, Democrats celebrated some outright gains in the state. Arizona will send two Democrats to the U.S. Senate for the first time in nearly 70 years after voters backed former astronaut Mark Kelly over Republican incumbent Martha McSally. He will join Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, elected in a close Senate race in 2018.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly speaks to supporters at a Volunteer Launch on Nov. 3, 2020 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Arizonans also approved ballot propositions legalizing recreational cannabis and raising taxes on high-income earners to pay for education, despite strong opposition to both measures from the state’s Republican leadership.

“I literally cried tears of joy” at the election results, said Biden voter Rose French, 41, as she stood across from the state legislature in Phoenix on Saturday in a T-shirt of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, watching as several hundred Trump supporters protested.

Ms. French and her husband, Donald Smith, 54, are both music professors at two local community colleges, which they say are badly in need of the funding that is expected to come from taxes on newly legalized recreational cannabis.

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The couple, who live in downtown Phoenix, have waited years for Arizona to turn blue in a presidential election, Mr. Smith said. He credits surging population growth in the city, where a spate of new public-transit projects, high-rise residential construction and an expansion of the downtown campus of Arizona State University has brought new residents into the city’s core.

A man rides a bicycle past campaign signs for Arizona U.S. senatorial candidates Krysten Sinema and Martha McSally following the U.S. Midterm elections in Scottsdale on Nov. 7, 2018.

Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

“I’m old enough to remember when downtown Phoenix was a ghost town,” he said. “Now there’s a lot of good restaurants and lots of nightlife. A whole lot of people are moving down here. Downtown is booming. And it’s overwhelmingly blue.”

Preliminary results from the state suggest that more Democratic voters than Republicans turned out in Arizona’s largest, most urban and fastest-growing regions, such as Maricopa County – home to Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe – as well as Pima County, which includes Tucson. Mr. Trump managed to boost his share of the vote in Republican strongholds of the state that are home to smaller cities and more rural areas that have not grown as quickly, said Samara Klar, a political scientist at the University of Arizona.

“One of the biggest factors is just the urbanization of the state, with more and more people leaving rural areas and more and more people entering urban areas,” she said. “The rural areas where Trump is gaining ground in Arizona are losing voters and the urban areas where Joe Biden is gaining ground are gaining voters.”

Arizonan Gabriella Ziccarelli listens to Kamala Harris a rally at Times Square in New York City, on Nov. 7, 2020, after media announced Joe Biden won the U.S. presidential election.

ANDREW KELLY/Reuters

Arizona added almost 700,000 registered voters between 2016 and 2020 thanks in part to an influx of new residents from states such as California, New York, Illinois and Washington, drawn by affordable homes, ample jobs and low taxes. Mr. Tor, a real estate agent, said home sales in the Phoenix area have been brisk despite the pandemic because of low interest rates and continued demand from people moving into the region.

Ben Enos, 29, moved to Phoenix from San Francisco three months ago to attend law school at Arizona State University, deliberately switching his voter registration from California to Arizona. “I knew it was going to be close, but here I could actually make an impact,” he said. “I wasn’t too worried about California."

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Mr. Trump narrowly won Arizona’s suburbs according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of voters by the Associated Press. But that support came primarily from white suburban voters without a college degree, who backed the Republican nominee 54 per cent. Mr. Biden won 56 per cent of non-white suburban voters and 53 per cent of college-educated suburbanites in Arizona.

The state also saw a jump in turnout among independent voters, who overwhelmingly backed Mr. Biden. While the overall share of voters who registered as independents didn’t change much between 2016 and this year – roughly 30 per cent of Arizona voters call themselves independents – the number who actually cast a ballot appeared to more than triple, from 82,000 in 2016 to nearly 300,000 this year. That suggests a surge in independents who either didn’t vote in 2016, or who have only recently moved into the state, Prof. Klar said.

Mr. Biden also appeared to do slightly better with seniors than Democrats have done in the past in Arizona, earning 46 per cent of the vote among those aged 65 and older, according to AP VoteCast.

Supporters of Joe Biden gather in Phoenix on Nov. 1, 2020.

ADRIANA ZEHBRAUSKAS/The New York Times News Service

Biden supporter Steve Jennings, 69, who works as director of advocacy for the Arizona offices of AARP, a lobby group for those over 50, said local seniors seemed particularly concerned about the Trump campaign’s approach to COVID-19. They frequently called into telephone town halls that his organization held with election candidates to raise concerns about why Mr. Trump’s rallies didn’t require attendees to wear face coverings or enforce physical distancing.

“They were saying: ‘Why aren’t they wearing masks? Why isn’t there a mask mandate?’ That would come up again and again,” he said. “I’m not sure his rallies didn’t backfire with him that way with older voters.”

Still, the extraordinarily close election results suggest Arizona remains firmly in battleground territory and point to challenges that Mr. Biden is likely to face in trying to unite a deeply polarized country.

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Trump supporters in Arizona question how Mr. Biden could have possibly won such a traditionally conservative state, especially since Mr. Trump turned out far more supporters at several rallies he held in Arizona than Mr. Biden did for his lone campaign visit to the state. Such questions have fuelled a belief among Trump supporters that Mr. Biden’s strong showing in Arizona is a result of voter fraud, and that Mr. Trump will ultimately win the state.

“We’re supposed to believe that this man who can’t get 50 to 100 people to a rally took Arizona? It’s the media saying ignore the truth, believe what we’re saying,” said Denise Marie, 56, a graphic designer from Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix.

A campaign sign for Joe Biden is displayed outside of the Surprise Court House polling location on Nov. 03, 2020 in Surprise, Ariz.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A former Democrat who migrated to Mr. Trump after attending several of his rallies in 2016, Ms. Marie said she was looking for ways to organize a public event to demonstrate just how many people still support the Republican President. “Even if Trump doesn’t win, he’s shaken up this country,” she said on Friday afternoon, before the election was officially called for Mr. Biden, but after several media outlets had declared that Mr. Trump lost Arizona.

Republicans in Arizona also managed to keep control of the state legislature and prevailed in a hotly contested congressional race in Maricopa County. And in one troubling sign for Democrats, Mr. Biden received nearly 50,000 fewer votes than Mr. Kelly, the Democratic senator-elect, who campaigned as an independent focused on local Arizona issues.

Mr. Trump also managed to turn out his base in large numbers in Arizona, a sign the partisan divide is alive and well in the United States, said Donald Critchlow, a political historian and Katzin Family Professor at Arizona State University. “A lot of people want the division healed. But I just don’t see it happening unfortunately,” he said. “We’re just in such a volatile time and this election really didn’t settle much.”

Nor is the election proof that Arizona is inevitably becoming a Democratic stronghold. Mr. Tor said he plans to switch his voter registration from Democrat to independent in future elections. He prefers that Arizona remain a “purple” state, one in which continuing political tensions force conservatives and liberals to find compromises.

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“I think Arizona will always be up for grabs,” he said. “As long as we stay in that ‘purple state’ zone, Arizona will be a great place to be.”

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