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Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0

After election-night vote tallies showed her narrowly trailing Republican Martha McSally, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema now leads the Arizona race for US Senate by nearly 10,000 votes, with about half a million mail-in ballots yet to be counted. Not surprisingly, both campaigns insist the remaining votes will result in victory, but just to help nudge things along, the state Republican Party is suing to prevent any further counting of ballots in the state's two biggest counties, which lean Democratic, because how is counting Democrat votes even fair?


The late swing in Sinema's favor comes from the late counting of mail-in ballots, which in Arizona make up about 75 percent of the vote but are also subject to an insanely cumbersome verification system -- if you can even call it that. Election workers in each county must decide whether the voter's signature on the absentee ballot envelope matches a signature on file. If it doesn't, the ballot is rejected, BUT several counties then call the voter to ask whether they submitted a mail in ballot, up to five days after Election Day. If the voter says "you betcha your boots!" (the phrasing must be exact), the vote is then counted.

Pima County, home to Dem-leaning Tucson and the second-largest in the state, has done that for years. This year, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, announced before the election that Maricopa (home to Phoenix and a cluster of cities that get mad when you call 'em "Phoenix") would begin doing the same. This got the Republicans very mad, because Sinema is considered to have the advantage in Maricopa, which contains her congressional district. Obviously, counting all ballots might allow some people with iffy signatures, like everyone we know, to have a vote, and THAT'S CHEATING.

So the state Republican Party sued the secretary of state and all the county recorders to demand that no mail-in ballots be counted if they hadn't been verified by the close of business on election day. The reasoning, the lawsuit alleges, is that there has to be a single standard for ballot verification, and that counting all the votes would be unfair and even harmful to small counties that finished counting their ballots quickly. The lawsuit insists that dragging the process out until all ballots are verified and counted would simply be a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, don't you see.

Yesterday, the judge in the case, Margaret R. Mahoney, denied the Republicans' initial request to immediately stop verifying ballots, and also ruled against requiring counties to separate out ballots verified after election day from those verified before that, which county elections officials said would delay a final tally even further. The judge scheduled a hearing for today and said she'd rule on it immediately.

Lawyers who filed the suit say they'd be happy if Mahoney decided to order the state's more rural counties to follow the same procedures, which would have the effect of expanding the vote count.

Currently, several other counties that lean Republican destroy mail ballots if voters don't help verify their signatures before polls close on Election Day.

"At the end of the day, each vote should be treated the same way," attorney Bret Johnson said in an interview.

The total number of votes that might be approved or rejected because of "mismatched" signatures is probably very small -- probably no more than 5,600 in Maricopa County, for instance, but with the margin between McSally and Sinema so thin, it's clear why Republicans would want as few votes in the state's two largest counties to actually be counted.

And as the experts at Dead Breitbart's Home For Rightwing Paranoia will happily explain to you, any method of vote counting that might result in a Democrat winning has to be unfair and fraud, because it just is. ARREST THEM ALL.

As an interesting sidelight to the ongoing electoral fuck-tussle in Arizona, Cindy McCain expressed outrage that the state GOP was trying to take action that might adversely affect even her.

Clearly, if voter suppression can harm even a beer heiress, the system is out of control. Then again, John McCain something something healthcare vote, something something George Soros, so counting every vote is actually fraud.

If you're in Arizona and want to check the status of your ballot, here's the Secretary of State's website. And maybe Arizona could check with Oregon and Washington on how to do mail-in ballots without it being a drawn-out disaster? Just a crazy liberal idea, we know.

[Arizona Republic / WaPo / Arizona Republic / Arizona's Politics blog / NBC News / Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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