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• Out­come of Se­nate race be­tween Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema might not be known un­til next week.

PHOENIX — Ari­zona’s na­tion­ally-watched and in­cred­i­bly tight Se­nate race be­tween Repub­li­can Martha McSally and Demo­crat Kyrsten Sinema may not have a de­clared win­ner un­til Thurs­day or even next week be­cause, iron­i­cally, the state’s vot­ers like to cast their bal­lots early.

About three-quar­ters of Ari­zona vot­ers cast bal­lots by mail. But many bal­lots known as “late ear­lies” ar­rive in the mail on Elec­tion Day, in the few days lead­ing up to it or are hand de­liv­ered by the vot­ers them­selves. Those bal­lots can cre­ate log­jams at the state’s 15 county recorders’ of­fices where vote count­ing is con­ducted.

All mailed bal­lots and the bal­lots that could have been mailed but were dropped off by the vot­ers re­quire a se­ries of la­bor-in­ten­sive ver­i­fi­ca­tions. Voter sig­na­tures on the en­velopes con­tain­ing the bal­lots must be ver­i­fied be­fore the votes are tab­u­lated.

McSally and Sinema were sep­a­rated Wed­nes­day by a small fraction of the tab­u­lated votes, with hun­dreds of thou­sands of un­counted bal­lots still out­stand­ing. More than 600,000 votes were un­counted in a race where more than 2 mil­lion peo­ple cast bal­lots. The most pop­u­lous part of Ari­zona, Mari­copa County, said it won’t start re­leas­ing late ear­lies and some other votes un­til late Thurs­day.

The slug­gish count is a peren­nial is­sue for Ari­zona, but has rarely re­ceived such a high level of at­ten­tion be­cause the GOPlean­ing state gen­er­ally has had few na­tion­ally-watched nail-bit­ing con­tests.

One can­di­date fa­mil­iar with the long wait is McSally. It took the Associated Press 12 days to name her as the loser of her first con­gres­sional race in 2012 be­cause the mar­gin was so nar­row and vote count­ing was slow. McSally’s se­cond and suc­cess­ful bid for the seat ended with a re­count in December of 2014, more than one month after the elec­tion.

McSally and Sinema sched­uled no pub­lic ap­pear­ances for Wed­nes­day.

McSally tweeted early Wed­nes­day that she was go­ing “to bed with a lead of over 14,000 votes.”

She added: “We’re con­fi­dent to­mor­row will bring more good news.”

Sinema tweeted that the “race is about you and we’re go­ing to make sure your vote is counted. There are a lot of out­stand­ing bal­lots — es­pe­cially those mailed-in — and a lot of rea­sons to feel good!”

The cliffhanger Se­nate race comes in what’s oth­er­wise shap­ing up to be an­other ban­ner Ari­zona year for Repub­li­cans. The GOP has won ev­ery statewide race in Ari­zona over the past decade, and Democrats were hop­ing Sinema could break that streak.

Repub­li­can Gov. Doug Ducey was eas­ily re-elected over a chal­lenge from Demo­crat David Gar­cia, a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sor. The GOP notched vic­to­ries in the At­tor­ney General, Trea­surer and Sec­re­tary of State races as well.

The pic­ture was brighter for the state’s Democrats in Congress, where Demo­crat Ann Kirk­patrick was elected to the Tucson-area swing district seat va­cated by McSally and Democrats held all their other four seats, giv­ing them a ma­jor­ity of the state’s nine-mem­ber U.S. House del­e­ga­tion.

The elec­tion fea­tured heavy statewide turnout of about 60 per­cent, more in line with a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion than a midterm — part of the rea­son county reg­is­trars were over­loaded with un­counted bal­lots.

The Se­nate con­test was the mar­quee race, fea­tur­ing two cham­pion fundraisers who are no strangers to tight races. They are bat­tling over the seat va­cated by Sen. Jeff Flake, a Repub­li­can who de­cided not to run for re-elec­tion be­cause he re­al­ized his crit­i­cism of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump made it im­pos­si­ble for him to sur­vive po­lit­i­cally.

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