The numbers in a contentious Arizona Senate race widened today, with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema jumping ahead of Republican Martha McSally by 32,640 vote at the Sunday 5 p.m. count, according to CBS 5. The race determines who will take an open seat left by retiring centrist Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Whichever candidate wins will become the first woman to represent Arizona in the Senate.
Election night ended with McSally in the lead, but as the counting continued, that lead narrowed, then collapsed. An effort began to verify the many mail in ballots that went uncounted, particularly in rural counties.
“Some of the ballots we are currently processing require extra attention and research. We are taking the time needed to make sure every voter’s voice is heard,” Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes wrote to CBS 5 in an email. “We want every vote to count and that’s exactly what we’re working on right now.”
On Friday, a court decided that all Arizona counties must continue validating signatures on absentee ballots until Wednesday, November 14th. Maricopa County Elections Department said today that it had 182,000 ballots left to count. The complaint was brought by the Republican Party in Maricopa, Apache, Navajo and Yuma counties, which the party said had failed to thoroughly verify the signatures on absentee ballots.
“If you drop it off on Election Day, that process can’t automatically just happen before the end of the day. We keep doing that process with that Election Day earlies, or what we call—late earlies—they’re still good, we want to count them but we want to be thorough so that’s what takes a little time,” Fontes said.
Each county has a different process by which they verify signatures. In some counties, that involves contacting the voters themselves.
Unlike in Florida, where the Republicans are fighting the recount effort, in Arizona, both parties seem to support counting all of the votes.
Even those tallying the votes come from both sides, Fontes says.
“There are always two people across from one another, one’s either a Democrat or a Republican, or you’ll have an Independent and a Republican or a Green and a Democrat. It doesn’t matter, they have to have different political interests to maintain integrity in the system and that’s what we’re looking for,” Fontes told CBS 5.
On Sunday night, Cook Political reporter Dave Wasserman called the election for Sinema on Twitter. “This thing has been over for a while,” he tweeted.
Maricopa County plans to continue releasing the vote counts at 5 p.m., every day until Wednesday.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the day that Arizona will stop counting votes.