PHOENIX – Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has defeated Republican Martha McSally in the highly contested – and closely watched – race for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat. The Associated Press called the race Monday evening after six days of post-Election Day ballot counting.
Sinema, who will become the first woman U.S. senator from the state, tweeted her thanks to voters.
McSally congratulated Sinema, who led Monday evening by nearly 39,000 votes.
Arizona counties continue to verify ballots, but AP made the determination to call the race after Monday’s results were released. A Democrat hasn’t held a U.S. Senate seat from Arizona since Sen. Dennis DeConcini retired in the mid 1990s.
State and county officials, and Republican Party officials who sued over discrepancies in the way Arizona counties check voter signatures on early ballots, agreed Friday to a settlement that allows the verification process to continue until 5 p.m. Nov. 14.
After initial results were released on Election Day, McSally held a slight advantage in the race to replacing outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Sinema regained the lead earlier this week, and that lead has continued to grow.
On Friday, the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office had more than 300,000 uncounted ballots. County Recorder Adrian Fontes told the Associated Press that the count is expect to wrap up Nov. 15. That process is independent of the settlement, which deals with the verification, or curing, of ballot signatures.
The Republican parties in Apache, Maricopa, Navajo and Yuma counties filed the suit against all 15 Arizona county recorders as well as Secretary of State Michele Reagan late Wednesday. The agreement announced in Maricopa County Superior Court, allows all 15 counties in Arizona to cure the remaining early ballots until next Wednesday.
The process works like this: Voters are required to sign the back of his or her early ballot envelope. That signature is compared to the one used to register to vote. If the signatures don’t look similar, the voter will be contacted to confirm their ballot. The four counties named in the suit allow for longer times for verification; Republican officials claimed that disenfranchised voters in the other 11, mostly rural, counties.
It’s not clear how many votes across the state remain to be cured. A Maricopa County official told the AP the number in her county is about 5,600.