Arizona's nationally-watched and incredibly tight Senate race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kristin Sinema may not have a declared victor until Thursday or even next week because, ironically, the state's voters like to cast their ballots early.
McSally led with 49.37 percent of the votes to Sinema's 48.39 percent, but trailed Sinema by a few thousand votes in Maricopa and Pima counties.
The suit filed by four county Republican parties - Maricopa, Apache, Navajo and Yuma counties - alleges that the state's 15 county recorders don't follow a uniform standard for allowing voters to adjust problems with their mail-in ballots, and that two counties improperly allow those fixes after Election Day.
On Thursday evening, the Arizona secretary of state's office published newly counted votes from these counties and others in the first significant update to the Senate contest since election night, when the race was too close to call.
The number of uncounted ballots in the rest of the state is likely less than 60,000, with the majority of those from Pinal County. He said "late early" ballots, which don't get counted on Election Day, now are undergoing a signature-verification process.
In those cases where the signature on file does not match the signature on the ballot, the county recorder may call the voter to verify if the person did in-fact sign the envelope containing the ballot. Assuming that trend holds and most of the uncounted ballots are in Pima and Maricopa, the remaining ballots could favor Sinema enough to put her over the top. It took The Associated Press 12 days to name her as the loser of her first congressional race in 2012 because the margin was so narrow and vote counting was slow.
A Superior Court judge said on Thursday that counties can keep tabulating these ballots, the Arizona Capitol Times reported, but another hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.More news: Sean Hannity Downplays Democratic Victories: Dems ‘Winning the House Is Meaningless’
Both Sinema (88 percent) and McSally supporters (88 percent) have a high degree of vote certainty, and equal numbers of Democrats (50 percent) and Republicans (50 percent) are extremely interested in the election.
And the late counting is unlikely to cut into the 3,100-vote lead that incumbent Sen.
She added: "We're confident tomorrow will bring more good news".
As the count comes in, Ms. Sinema has overcome a sizable gap. More Arizona voters identify as Republican than as Democrat by 10 points.
Leonard Aragon is a Democrat and supports Sinema. The GOP notched victories in the Attorney General, Treasurer and Secretary of State races as well. Both Sinema and McSally had served in the U.S. House and are vying for the seat now held by Republican Jeff Flake, who is retiring.
The Senate contest was the marquee race, a contest between two champion fundraisers who are no strangers to tight races.
Angela Green, a Green Party candidate, was running a distant third, with just over 2 percent of the vote.