The Latest: Sinema takes tiny lead as race remains in flux

PHOENIX (AP) — The Latest on a lawsuit filed by Arizona Republicans seeking to block some ballots from being counted. (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

Arizona’s photo-finish Senate race is not over yet. But Democrat Kyrsten Sinema just took a step closer to the finish line.

Sinema jumped to a modest lead Thursday night after traditionally Republican Maricopa County released a batch of more than 100,000 previously uncounted ballots and Democratic-leaning Pima County followed suit. Sinema leads Republican Martha McSally by more than 8,000 out of more than 2.2 million votes cast. McSally had led by 17,000 votes before that.

The numbers will change as counties continue to tally the ballots. But they excited Democrats and alarmed Republicans watching the count. It may be another week before all the ballots are counted.

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1 p.m.

Lawyers for Arizona’s largest county told a judge that only a tiny percentage of the nearly 500,000 ballots they have yet to count could be affected by a Republican-led lawsuit seeking to limit their tabulation.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge who heard preliminary arguments on the lawsuit Thursday set a full hearing for Friday afternoon.

The lawsuit singles out the state’s two biggest urban counties, which are the base of Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s support. She and Republican Rep. Martha McSally are separated by only a few thousand votes.

The lawsuit seeks to prevent the state’s two largest counties from contacting voters if there are problems verifying signatures on their early ballots. The suit said doing so is illegal and creates an uneven playing field because other counties stop verifying such ballots after Election Day.

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10:57 a.m.

A judge has set a hearing to consider how to handle a lawsuit filed by Republican party officials seeking to prevent some mailed-in ballots from being counted in Arizona’s nail-biter of a Senate race.

County officials were still counting more than 600,000 ballots when four local Republican parties filed the lawsuit Wednesday night. The suit challenges the way counties have allowed voters to fix problems involving signatures on some mailed-in early ballots.

A judge in Phoenix set the hearing for late Thursday morning to set a case schedule.

The lawsuit singles out the state’s two biggest urban counties, which are the base of Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s support. She and Republican Rep. Martha McSally are separated by only a few thousand votes.

Counting outstanding votes could take a week or more.

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