Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema expanded her lead to 20,203 votes over GOP Rep. Martha McSally Friday evening as Arizona election authorities continued to count ballots in the state’s uncalled Senate race.
Sinema’s lead amounts to just over 1 percentage point after more than 2 million votes have been counted. Sinema was up by 9,610 votes earlier in the day before the counties processed approximately 80,000 additional votes Friday — but slightly more than 350,000 ballots have yet to be counted across the state.
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Republicans and Democrats had been expecting the ballot releases Thursday and Friday to benefit Sinema and expand her lead, as they were mailed ballots from the final days of early voting, which favored the Democrat. Republicans believe the gap will narrow in the coming days, however, because as many as 200,000 of the remaining ballots were dropped off at polling places on Election Day, and those ballots are expected to benefit McSally.
Most of the remaining vote is from Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county that includes Phoenix. Arizona election authorities will continue to release a similar number of ballots every day over the weekend and into next week until the vote is fully counted. It’s unclear when the race will be called.
In a statement, Sinema’s campaign manager Andrew Piatt said: “Once again, today’s data confirmed our expectation that as the ballots are counted, Kyrsten will steadily build her advantage and be elected to the U.S. Senate.”
In a statement, McSally said: “Equal protection under the law is a fundamental constitutional right for American voters. As a combat veteran, I fought to protect it. And today, we won an important battle to preserve that right for rural voters in Arizona. I will continue fighting until every ballot is counted.”
Republicans have lodged serious allegations against Democrats concerning the ballots as the process has unfolded since Election Day. President Donald Trump tweeted about the race Thursday alleging “electoral corruption” over a ballot issue the Arizona Republican Party was contesting in court.
Republicans filed a lawsuit to halt a practice in two counties where officials were checking signatures on early mail ballots that did not match voter files. Arizona GOP chairman Jonathan Lines and Sen. Jon Kyl both accused Democrats of potentially disenfranchising rural voters because officials only in Maricopa County and Pima County — home to Tucson — were checking the signatures.
An agreement was reached in court Friday afternoon to allow all counties to check signatures until Nov. 14, which Republicans hailed as a victory — though they continued to criticize the Maricopa County recorder. Only a few thousand votes were likely to be affected by the issue, the Associated Press reported, but that could be significant if the race tightens as votes continue to be counted.
Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted Friday evening: “We often hear the phrase: Every vote matters. And the #AZSen race is proof. So let’s get this right. All legally cast votes MUST be counted. Lawful votes in EVERY county in the state MUST be counted. Let’s follow the law, count the votes, prevent any cheating, and heed the will of the voters.”
At the highest levels of the national party, there’s frustration with McSally — and a sense that she’s not being aggressive enough throughout the process.
While Florida Gov. Rick Scott has lashed out at election officials over the vote counting in his state, McSally has been largely silent. Top officials with the White House and Republican National Committee, who’ve been prodding the McSally campaign to amp up its efforts, have expressed frustration that the Arizona congresswoman hasn’t tried to drive a message that there’s something amiss with the vote count.
On Thursday evening, senior Republicans joined the McSally campaign for a conference call to discuss the state of play. On the call, Justin Clark, the White House director of public liaison, and Mike Roman, a veteran opposition researcher who is working with the RNC, pressed the McSally campaign on what was being done.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, meanwhile, has spoken with Lines, and has expressed a desire for more aggressiveness.
So far, the congresswoman has not addressed the vote counting directly. On Friday, Kyl released a statement saying “Democrats’ legal strategy sounds an awful lot like an effort to disenfranchise voters” from the state’s rural counties.
Lines held a press conference shortly before Friday’s court hearing to echo Kyl’s statement of “disenfranchisement.” Ultimately, the GOP got its desired result in that hearing.
Trump, who was briefed by aides on the Arizona and Florida tallies on Thursday, has also weighed in. “Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption – Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!” the president tweeted on Friday afternoon while en route to Paris.
Among some senior Republicans, there is suspicion about why McSally has chosen to hold back. Some are convinced that she’s willing to let the race go and instead hope for an appointment to the state’s other Senate seat. Kyl, who was picked to replace the late Sen. John McCain, has yet to commit to serving for a full term.