Picture, if you will, yourself on Nov. 3. Now take a deep breath and calm down. Are you ready to move on? OK, good. It’s election night, and as results come in from across the country, it’s becoming more and more likely that the entire presidential race will come down to who wins Arizona. For those of us who have lived here a while, that’s certainly a new feeling, but it is entirely plausible.

Continue to picture what that night will be like. Picture the first batch of results coming out of the state’s election offices, all showing a clear lead for Donald Trump. That lead holds steady throughout the night, and MAGA Nation thinks it has won. They go to bed elated. The other side might cry themselves to sleep.

Only, hold on. The next day, more results start to come in, and the president’s lead over Joe Biden is just a little bit smaller. The next day, even smaller. All of a sudden, it’s a week later and what do you know? Biden has the lead, and he holds onto it until the final votes are counted, and he becomes the next president.

Imagine now the hysteria that would follow such a scenario. Enough people already believe this election is going to be rigged. They will feel vindicated by their candidate’s lead evaporating due to votes that somehow weren’t there on election night. And what if Trump declared victory on election night before the change in results?

To be clear, this post-election-night change could swing either way. It could be Trump who comes back from behind. I’m just basing this scenario on what happened two years ago. If you remember, on election night it appeared Republicans were going to sweep the major state races, and that Martha McSally was going to be Arizona’s next senator.

Then, more results came, and then more, and then more. By the end, it was Kyrsten Sinema, and not McSally, who would make history as the state’s first female senator. And instead of Republicans holding onto all the state offices, the narrative had changed to that of a “Blue Wave” as Democrats took over the offices of secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction and one seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

So what happened? Well it turned out that the people who voted at the end had different political leanings than those who voted earlier. That meant the results were always going to be different between election night and the many ballots counted afterward.

As stated earlier, we have no way of knowing if that same difference is going to exist this election cycle, or which way it would tilt. However, it’s important to remember what happened in 2018, because the shout of “conspiracy!” is going to come loud and often if a candidate’s seemingly safe lead vanishes for no obvious reason.

Elections are nothing if people do not believe in their integrity. We are already seeing that issue arise out of the political discourse. So we all need to do our part to defend Arizona’s election integrity when there is no basis for attacks against it. With emotions so high around the results of the presidential race, it’s going to be tempting for supporters of the loser to say they were robbed.

If it’s anything like 2018, they weren’t. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. Let’s all vow to accept it.

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Joey Chenoweth can be contacted at jchenoweth@pinalcentral.com.

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