PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- With the updated numbers from the Maricopa County Recorder's Office, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema slightly widened her lead over Republican Martha McSally in the race to become the first woman to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate.

McSally was leading at the end of Election Day, but Sinema passed her on Thursday, and continued that trend during the weekend as ballot counting continued.

[ABOUT THAT: New numbers give Sinema slight lead over McSally in AZ Senate race]

As of Monday at 3:45 p.m. McSally was trailing Sinema by 35,814 votes.

[CHECK: Latest election results]

The Maricopa County Elections Department said there are about 162,000 ballots left to process on Sunday, with the entire state has about 220,000.

Other close races

It's not just the Arizona's Senate race that's in doubt.

It's a back-and-forth battle for secretary of state in Arizona.

Holding onto 50.1 percent of the vote, Democrat Katie Hobbs took a 3645 vote lead over Republican Steve Gaynor Monday as Yuma County votes were tallied.

The Associated Press originally called the race on election night for Gaynor, when he was up by thousands of votes. At the time, Hobbs' campaign said it was still too close to call and didn't concede.

The superintendent of public instruction race hasn't been officially called but Democrat Kathy Hoffman is declaring victory.

Like the Senate race, the schools chief match-up ended election day with Republican Frank Riggs in the lead but flipped to Hoffman Thursday.

Hoffman maintained that lead Monday when the newest numbers were reported.

[ABOUT THAT: Race for schools chief flips, secretary of state closes gap as ballot counting continues]

Hoffman now leads by 51,224 votes for state superintendent of public instruction as of 4 p.m. Monday. She said she won the race on Twitter Sunday.

"We did this together. We did this because the future of Arizona starts in our public schools," she said in a tweet. "Words cannot express my gratitude."

Ballots November 2018

"Some of the ballots we are currently processing require extra attention and research. We are taking the time needed to make sure every voter's voice is heard," Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said in an emailed statement last week.

[RELATED: Did you vote by mail in Arizona? Check your ballot status here]

Fontes said tabulation will continue in the coming days with daily updates at 5 p.m.

"We want every vote to count and that's exactly what we're working on right now," Fontes said. 

On Friday, a court settlement mandated that all of 15 of Arizona counties must continue verifying signatures on mail-in ballots until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14.

[RELATED: Arizona county recorders to continue to verify signatures on mail-in ballots]

The Republican Party in Maricopa, Apache, Navajo and Yuma counties had filed a complaint against the secretary of state and each of Arizona's 15 county recorders.

At issue was the handling of mail-in ballots, for which signatures could not be verified.

"If you drop it off on Election Day, that process can't automatically just happen before the end of the day. We keep doing that process with that Election Day earlies, or what we call--late earlies--they're still good, we want to count them but we want to be thorough so that's what takes a little time," Fontes explained.

The process is different from county to county with some continuing to contact voters to "cure" problematic ballot after Election Day and some not.

Workers in Maricopa County are working around the clock to verify each ballot before it can be tabulated. Fontes said that workers come from all parties.

"There are always two people across from one another, one's either a Democrat or a Republican, or you'll have an Independent and a Republican or a Green and a Democrat. It doesn't matter, they have to have different political interests to maintain integrity in the system and that's what we're looking for," Fontes explained. 

Friday's resolutions, to which all parties agreed, is fairly straightforward.

"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."

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."

Arizona's county recorders are to use any method available to them to contact people whose mail-in ballots need to be verified.

The McSally Campaign released a statement Saturday evening saying:

“Today our vote total grew at a greater rate than expected, and we expanded our vote margins in rural areas counting mail-in ballots dropped off on election day. The latest release provides compelling evidence that the remaining uncounted ballots are favorable to Martha. And we will continue our effort to make sure all lawful ballots are counted."

Why is the ballot counting taking so long?

The Maricopa County Recorder's Office, in particular, has come under scrutiny over the slow pace of its ballot counting process.

While the issue is not new, it is more visible with such a high-profile race still too close to call.

[RELATED: Nothing unusual about vote count in Arizona dragging on]


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