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For Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally, Tuesday night was supposed to mark the end of a hard-fought battle that tested vastly different visions for the nation.

McSally and Sinema were separated Wednesday by a small fraction of the tabulated votes, with hundreds of thousands of uncounted ballots still outstanding.

"They're essentially processing what is three or four days of early ballots as soon as possible ... this is pretty standard for state general elections", he said, adding that the count also involves a detailed review of provisional ballots.

A tweet late Wednesday from Garrett Archer, a data analyst with the Arizona secretary of state's office, estimated about 475,000 ballots outstanding in Maricopa County, 59,000 ballots remaining in Pima County, and another 35,000 outstanding in Pinal County, with a handful of other counties having about 5,000 or fewer outstanding ballots as well.

The problem, however, was that early voting in Arizona started on October 10, meaning that not only could voters have cast their mailed ballots for the first 20 days of the voting period, but also that Green's name would still be listed on mailed ballots and the day-of ballots at polling stations through the close of the election.

GOP officials in the state filed a lawsuit asking that rules regarding the handling of ballots be made uniform throughout the state. He said "late early" ballots, which don't get counted on Election Day, now are undergoing a signature-verification process.

Mahoney said it was too soon to require Maricopa and other counties to stop contacting voters to verify signatures on mail ballots.

Some of the clearest examples of third party spoilers have been on the presidential level, with Ralph Nader being seen in that role by many in the 2000 election.

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While they wait, Sinema, the Democrat, and McSally, the Republican, are staying out of the public spotlight.

"There are just so many votes that need to be counted, I don't know that we can say for certain why a candidate lost", she said. A judge ruled Thursday that the current vote counting could go on. Almost 9,000 votes separate McSally from Sinema. Sinema is ahead by about 9,000 votes out of 1.9 million counted so far.

The Arizona race would cut into that.

The picture was more mixed in Congress, where Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick was elected to the Tucson-area swing district seat vacated by McSally. The GOP has won every statewide race in Arizona over the past decade, and Democrats were hoping Sinema could break that streak.

The Senate contest was the marquee race, a contest between two champion fundraisers who are no strangers to tight races.

McSally and Sinema have both remade themselves politically.

The situation could represent a cruel twist of fate for Sinema, who started her own political career running for the Arizona House of Representatives in 2002 as an independent affiliated with the Arizona Green Party.


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