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11:50 PM Fri, Nov. 16th

600K ballots remain uncounted in Arizona; state schools chief, McSally-Sinema race up in air

In this Oct. 25 photo, Maricopa County Elections official Anita Aguilar instructs election volunteers on how to feed a ballot into a machine during a training session in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP, file)

In this Oct. 25 photo, Maricopa County Elections official Anita Aguilar instructs election volunteers on how to feed a ballot into a machine during a training session in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP, file)

Yavapai County

Counted: 80,780 early ballots; 16,739 vote center ballots

To Be Duplicated*: 1,946 early ballots; 491 vote center ballots

To Be Verified: 5,216 early ballots; 925 provisional ballots

(* - Some ballots are rejected by the tallying machine because the choices are illegible. These are duplicated, if possible, overseen by representatives from each party, and then they are counted.)

PHOENIX - Some 600,000 ballots that remain uncounted Wednesday are leaving the race for U.S. Senate and the state schools chief up in the air - along with possibly some legislative races - perhaps for days.

Maricopa County alone was reporting about 472,000 untallied ballots.

The majority were those that were delivered by the post office prior to or on election day. But about 195,000 came from those who received early ballots but chose to drop them off at polling places on Tuesday.

Pima County is sitting on about 85,000 ballots, three fourths of those being what the county elections department got on Tuesday. There also are about 18,000 ballots that were cast provisionally pending verification, and another 7,000 that need to be examined and perhaps duplicated to deal with things like spilled coffee.

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.

What makes all of this so critical is that with about 1,7 million votes already tallied, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is trailing in the race for U.S. Senate by about 15,000 votes. More to the point, she has been outpolling Republican Martha McSally in both Maricopa and Pima counties, the ones with the largest number of ballots to be counted.

Sinema’s lead in Maricopa is only about 8,000 votes out of more than 971,000 already counted there. But she leads by more than 46,000 vote of the nearly 302,000 tallied in Pima County.

And if the trend holds, that could close the gap, even with some rural counties going strongly for McSally.

The situation is even more pronounced in the race for superintendent of public instruction, where Republican Frank Riggs holds a lead of close to only 6,200 over Democrat Kathy Hoffman.

Here, too, Hoffman outpolled Riggs slightly in Maricopa County. But she had a 47,000-vote edge over her GOP foe in Pima County.

In both of the two large counties, new numbers won’t be announced before the end of the day on Thursday. That’s because officials say they need the time to do things like verify the signatures on the outside of the envelopes of all those early ballots.

The late counting also could impact the effort by Democrat Christine Marsh to oust state Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, with the incumbent having a lead of fewer than 1,500 votes.

Even closer is the bid by Democrat Jennifer Pawlik of Chandler to win a House seat being vacated by J.D. Mesnard who is moving to the Senate. She has a lead of less than 500 over Republican Nora Ellen.

And the ability of Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, to hold on to her seat depends on her being able to make up the close to 600-vote deficit she has to Democrat Aaron Lieberman.