PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A Maricopa County judge says the recorders of Arizona's 15 counties should keep counting ballots and try in good faith to reach out to voters whose signatures on mail-in ballots have not been verified.
The deadline is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
The recorders' offices can reach out by email, phone, mail and social media to try and confirm individuals' votes if there was an issue with their ballot or signature.
The Arizona Republican Party had filed the lawsuit because of concerns about the way early ballots were being counted in rural Arizona counties.
Republicans had complained that counties across the state all count their questionable early ballots differently, and that's unfair to some voters.
"The bottom line is, it's fine with us," said Grant Woods, with the Kyrsten Sinema campaign. "Everybody that tried to vote and made a good faith effort to vote, their vote ought to be counted. That's what we wanted, and whoever wins, wins."
The settlement was created so that all voters and counties are on the same playing field and every effort is made to have every vote count.
"These counties that were not going to count Republican votes in rural areas, they got caught with their pants down, " said attorney Kory Langhofer, who represents the AZ Republican Party. "We got a chance to show up in court today and told the judge what was going on and they gave us everything we were asking for."
"Equal protection under the law is a fundamental constitutional right for American voters," Senate hopeful Martha McSally said in a statement released Friday evening. "As a combat veteran, I fought to protect it. And today, we won an important battle to preserve that right for rural voters in Arizona. I will continue fighting until every ballot is counted."
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes explains the process everyone signed off on isn’t even new. Arizona law already allows 5 business days for people who don’t show ID at the polls on election day to verify their signature at the recorder’s office. Friday’s settlement simply applies those rules to early ballots.
“If they miss that Wednesday 5 pm deadline, then just like anyone who didn’t get into line on election day by 7 pm, they will have surrendered that right to vote," he said.
Friday's hearing and decision stem from a complaint filed earlier this week by the GOP in four counties naming the Arizona secretary of state and all of the recorders.
The official resolution is:
"The country recorder defendants must permit voters to cure early ballots until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. 'Cure' means the same governmental acts taken prior to the general election to allow a voter to confirm their early-ballot vote."
AZ Republicans reaching court settlement in vote counting complaint. All AZ county recorders must continue trying to confirm early ballots up until 5pm Nov. 14. pic.twitter.com/nhobIwt4CB— Jason Barry (@jasonbarrytv) November 9, 2018
Arizona Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Lines issued a statement shortly after the settlement was finalized.
"From the beginning, we have always had one goal: fair treatment of all voters, regardless of which county they live in," he said. "Today’s settlement ensures that voters in all of Arizona’s 15 counties, particularly those 11 rural counties that had not been planning to continue with ballot rehabilitation, will have their voices heard."
AZ Senate race results evolving, Sinema maintains small lead over McSally
Arizona's Senate race is changing virtually every hour as ballot counts continue to roll in from throughout the state.
The latest batch of numbers saw Democrat Krysten Sinema's slim lead over Republican Martha McSally narrow even more.
While McSally was leading at the end of Election Day, Sinema closed the 17,000-vote gap and pulled ahead Thursday as Maricopa and Pima counties counted mail-in ballots.
As for Friday morning, about 9,000 votes separated the women hoping to win the seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Flake. By 2 p.m. that was down to about 8,200 votes.
[THE LATEST: Election results as they develop]
Garrett Archer, a senior analyst with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, tweeted that the change is the result of new numbers from Yavapai County.
Yavapai has posted results to the state.https://t.co/UHiUW2tvEs— The AZ Data Guru (@Garrett_Archer) November 9, 2018
Her lead grew again to about 9,000 as numbers came in from Pinal County at about 3 p.m.
Maricopa County is expecting to release its updated numbers at 5 p.m.
While there is added scrutiny due to Arizona's nail-biter Senate race -- people are over the country are watching -- the slow counting process, particularly in Maricopa County, is not a new issue.
It always takes days, even weeks, for the tabulation to wrap up.
Even as those numbers changed, the Republican leaders from four Arizona counties were in court to ask that some ballot not be counted.
The Republican Party in Maricopa, Apache, Navajo and Yuma counties is suing the secretary of state and the recorders in all 15 counties over the handling mail-in ballots, specifically the verification of signatures.
The complaint, which was filed Wednesday, singles out the state’s two biggest urban counties, which are the base of Sinema’s support.
There is no statewide method for fixing problems with signatures on mail-in ballots; the process varies county to county.
Protestors gather outside Maricopa County Superior Court while judge listens to lawsuit filed by AZ Republicans who question how votes are being counted. pic.twitter.com/tYUjaly79E— Jason Barry (@jasonbarrytv) November 9, 2018
President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue, questioning the integrity of the evolving results and all but accusing Democrats of something nefarious.
On Friday morning he suggested there was something sinister about “Democrats” adding to their tallies. “Now in Arizona, all of a sudden, out of the wilderness, they find a lot of votes.”
He later tweeted, "Electoral corruption - Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!"
Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption - Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018
Don't expect to hear final results by Wednesday, though; there are still 370,000 total ballots that need to be counted statewide.