PHOENIX — Approximately 600,000 ballots that remained uncounted Wednesday are leaving the race for U.S. Senate, the state schools chief job and possibly some legislative contests up in the air — perhaps for days.

Maricopa County alone was reporting about 472,000 untallied ballots.

The majority were those that were delivered by the post office before or on Election Day. But about 195,000 came from those who received early ballots but chose to drop them off at polling places Tuesday.

Pima County is sitting on about 85,000 uncounted ballots, three-fourths of those being what the county elections department received Tuesday.

Of that total, there are about 18,000 ballots cast provisionally pending verification, and an additional 7,000 that need to be examined and perhaps duplicated to deal with things such as spilled coffee that make the ballots unreadable to tabulating machines.

The number of uncounted ballots in the rest of the state is likely less than 60,000, with the majority of those from Pinal County.

What makes all of this so critical is that with about 1.7 million votes already tallied, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is trailing in the race for the U.S. Senate by about 16,000 votes.

More to the point, she has been outpolling Republican Martha McSally in Maricopa and Pima counties, the counties with the most uncounted ballots.

Sinema’s lead in Maricopa is only about 8,000 votes out of more than 971,000 already counted there. But she leads by more than 37,000 votes of the nearly 302,000 tallied in Pima County.

And if the trend holds, that could close the gap, even with some rural counties going strongly for McSally.

Schools chief race

The situation is even more pronounced in the race for superintendent of public instruction, where Republican Frank Riggs holds a lead of close to 7,200 votes over Democrat Kathy Hoffman.

Hoffman outpolled Riggs slightly in Maricopa County, but she had a 47,000-vote edge over her GOP foe in Pima County.

In both of the two large counties, new numbers won’t be announced before the end of the day Thursday. That’s because officials say they need the time to do things like verify the signatures on the outside of the envelopes of all those early ballots.

Legislative races that could be affected

The late counting also could impact the effort by Democrat Christine Marsh to oust state Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, with the incumbent having a lead of fewer than 1,500 votes.

Even closer is the bid by Democrat Jennifer Pawlik of Chandler to win a House seat being vacated by J.D. Mesnard, who is moving to the Senate.

Pawlik has a lead of less than 500 over Republican Nora Ellen.

And the ability of Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, to hold on to her seat depends on her being able to make up a nearly 600-vote deficit she has to Democrat Aaron Lieberman.

Less likely to be affected is the effort by Rep. Todd Clodfelter, R-Tucson, to keep one of the two House seats in his district.

He trails Democrat Domingo DeGrazia by about 1,900 votes.

And the late counting is unlikely to cut into the 3,100-vote lead that incumbent Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, has over Democratic challenger Wade Carlisle.

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