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Republicans sue Arizona county recorders as US Senate election remains too close to call

The Arizona U.S. Senate race between U.S. Republican Rep. Martha McSally (left) and Democrat Rep. candidate Kyrsten Sinema is still razor close as state counties continue counting mail-in ballots following Tuesday’s election. On Friday, Sinema widened her lead against McSally. The two candidates are shown here at an Arizona State University game the weekend before the election. (Photos by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Republican parties in Yuma, Navajo, Apache, and Maricopa counties filed a lawsuit against all state recorders and the secretary of state late Wednesday, as the Arizona U.S. Senate race still hangs in the balance.

What is the issue?

The groups are challenging how Arizona counties verify signatures on mail-in ballots that come into the polls on Election Day, according to a complaint obtained by the Arizona Republic.

Arizona’s U.S. Senate race has no declared winner because it is too close to call. Results following Tuesday’s election showed that Republican Martha McSally earned 49.4 percent of the vote and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema had 48.4 percent, with about 75 percent of precincts reporting. About 17,000 votes separated the two candidates, according to CNN.

The race could take days — possibly weeks — to call, according to the Republic. Results from are still pending from Maricopa County, the most populous in the state and one where Sinema has dominated.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court, Eric Spencer, elections director for the Secretary of State, told the Republic. Republicans are trying to get the hearing moved up to Thursday, according to Spencer.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes and some other county recorders believe they can contact voters after Election Day. Voters are called to verify they signed the green envelope of the ballot, which is required by law. The lawsuit maintains that under state law, voters can be contacted only prior to Election Day. The lawsuit is asking for that process to be followed in all counties throughout the state.

“A foundational principle of American democracy and our justice system is that all votes are treated equally,” Arizona Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Lines said in a statement to the news outlet. "This equal protection under the law is enshrined in our Constitution. It is not fair nor just that voters in one county are treated differently under the law from other voters in Arizona. This suit seeks immediate redress of any inequality between ballots cast across Arizona. We stand behind our local county parties demand for equal treatment.”

Is there any pushback?

Democratic leaders are vowing to fight back if any of the votes are discounted.

"The Republican Party is doing everything it can to silence thousands of Arizonans who already cast their ballots," Felecia Rotellini, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, said in a prepared statement to the newspaper. "That's absolutely wrong, and the Arizona Democratic Party is fully prepared to fight to ensure that every last Arizonan has their vote counted."

Andy Gordon, an election-law attorney who represents Democrats, told the newspaper he believes the lawsuit has no merit.

"It's classic Republican 11th-hour stuff," Gordon said. "There are counties all over the state who have been doing this forever ... and so now that we’ve got a different regime down here in Maricopa County, and we’ve got a really, really, really tight Senate race, suddenly the Republicans say, 'You shouldn’t be doing this, we need to call it off.'"

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