Se­nate race swings as Ari­zona bal­lot count grinds on

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NATION - Ni­cholas Ric­cardi Ni­cholas Ric­cardi is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

Ev­ery elec­tion, it takes weeks for Ari­zona to count its bal­lots. But as the Demo­crat in the tight U.S. Se­nate race there jumped into the lead in the lat­est re­sults some Repub­li­cans have raised base­less al­le­ga­tions of fraud.

The most prom­i­nent is Pres­i­dent Trump. On Fri­day he sug­gested there was some­thing sin­is­ter about “Democrats” adding to their tal­lies. “Now in Ari­zona, all of a sud­den, out of the wilder­ness, they find a lot of votes.”

There is no ev­i­dence of any­thing un­usual go­ing on in the Ari­zona vote-count­ing — and no elected Repub­li­can of­fi­cials in the state have cried foul. It’s plau­si­ble that the Demo­crat Kyrsten Sinema’s op­po­nent, Repub­li­can Rep. Martha McSally, could jump back into the lead in com­ing days. That wouldn’t be sus­pi­cious, ei­ther.

Blame the fact that Ari­zo­nans like to vote early, by mail. That sounds like a con­tra­dic­tion, but a mailed-in bal­lot re­quires more work for Ari­zona elec­tions of­fi­cials. That’s be­cause state law re­quires the en­ve­lope to be sealed and signed, and for elec­tions of­fi­cials to match each sig­na­ture to the one on file with the voter’s regis­tra­tion be­fore even open­ing the en­ve­lope. In this elec­tion, that’s about 1.7 mil­lion in­di­vid­ual sig­na­tures that had to be con­firmed, one-by-one. A to­tal of about 2.3 mil­lion votes were cast in Ari­zona.

The prob­lem comes in the fi­nal days when the bal­lots flood elec­tion of­fices. Vot­ers can also drop off sealed mail bal­lots on elec­tion day, adding to the pile. Those bal­lots can’t be counted that day be­cause the elec­tions of­fice is busy set­ting up and ad­min­is­ter­ing in-per­son vot­ing.

“Ari­zona takes elec­tions se­ri­ously — from the poll work­ers to the county elec­tions of­fi­cials, and the Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice,” Michelle Rea­gan, the state’s Repub­li­can sec­re­tary of state, said Fri­day. “Every­body is work­ing dili­gently to tab­u­late all of the elec­tion re­sults in a man­ner that Ari­zo­nans can be proud of and, most im­por­tantly, trust the re­sults.”

It nor­mally takes more than a week to count all the bal­lots in Ari­zona. The recorder in the state’s big­gest county — Mari­copa, where 60 per­cent of votes are cast — Adrian Fontes, ex­pects the count­ing to be done by Nov. 15.

Repub­li­cans had been brac­ing them­selves for Sinema to take the lead from McSally on Thurs­day night be­cause the bal­lots pro­cessed then were more fa­vor­able to the Demo­crat. Early vot­ing started on Oct. 10 and for more than a week Repub­li­cans held a clear edge in Mari­copa County. But the gap be­gan to nar­row as elec­tion day ap­proached and more Democrats turned in their bal­lots.

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