As the Arizona Senate vote count starts to tip into Democratic terrain, a judge Friday will hear a lawsuit by the GOP seeking to limit the tally — or expand it in the state’s conservative-leaning rural areas.

Four local Republican parties filed a lawsuit Wednesday night challenging the state’s two biggest counties for allowing voters to help resolve problems with their mail-in ballot signatures after Election Day. If the signature on the voter registration doesn’t match that on the sealed envelope, both Maricopa and Pima County allow voters to help them fix, or “cure” it, up to five days after Election Day.

Arizona Republican senatorial candidate Martha McSally, speaks with voters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Chase's diner in Chandler, Ariz. McSally and Democratic challenger Kirsten Sinema are seeking the senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is retiring in January. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona Republican senatorial candidate Martha McSally, speaks with voters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Chase’s diner in Chandler, Ariz. McSally and Democratic challenger Kirsten Sinema are seeking the senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is retiring in January. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Many other counties only allow voters to cure until polls close on Election Day.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes talks about the progress of the ballot count at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes talks about the progress of the ballot count at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Only a few thousand votes would be affected by the suit, but every one counts in the razor-close U.S. Senate race between Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Rep. Martha McSally. On Thursday, Sinema jumped into a minuscule lead of about 9,000 out of 1.9 million votes counted after trailing since Tuesday. Her lead came from the two counties singled out by Republicans in their lawsuit, Maricopa and Pima Counties.

The race remained too close to call with at least 400,000 ballots still uncounted. Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said counting may continue until Nov. 15. “We know there’s urgency out there, but we want to get it right, not quick,” he said.

Workers at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office go through ballots Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Workers at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office go through ballots Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona is notoriously slow at tallying ballots even though about 75 percent of votes are cast by mail. Each of those ballots must go through a laborious verification process.

Workers prepare ballots for counting machines at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Workers prepare ballots for counting machines at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

If the signature on the envelope does not match the signature on the voter file, elections officials can contact the voter to try to resolve the discrepancy. Such situations arise, for example, when voters have Parkinson’s disease and can no longer sign as they did in the past or as their signature changes over the years.

The GOP lawsuit centers on that “cure” process. It asks that the judge either stop Maricopa and Pima from contacting voters to fix their ballots after Election Day or permit the rest of the state to do it. At least two other rural counties also allow post-Election Day “cures” but several others do not.

Workers organize ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Workers organize ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Attorney Brett Johnson said in an interview the party would be happy if the end result is more votes counted. “At the end of the day, each vote should be treated the same way,” Johnson said.

A worker carries ballots to be verified at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
A worker carries ballots to be verified at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

At a brief hearing Thursday, a Maricopa County official said only about 5,600 ballots are at issue in her county and the rate is similar in the 14 smaller counties. More than 2.2 million votes were cast statewide.

A worker prepares volunteers to verify ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
A worker prepares volunteers to verify ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

There were more than 600,000 mail-in ballots left to process statewide as of Wednesday, about 75 percent in Maricopa County. That huge amount has put pressure on a system that spends a lot of time already verifying the mail ballot signatures.

Fontes said his office’s 1980s-era computer system is partly to blame. It was put in when Maricopa was far smaller and only a handful of its residents voted by mail.

Arizona Republican senatorial candidate Martha McSally, right, speaks with Caleb Klein and his sister, Grace Klein, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Chase's diner in Chandler, Ariz. McSally and Democratic challenger Kirsten Sinema are seeking the senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is retiring in January. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona Republican senatorial candidate Martha McSally, right, speaks with Caleb Klein and his sister, Grace Klein, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Chase’s diner in Chandler, Ariz. McSally and Democratic challenger Kirsten Sinema are seeking the senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is retiring in January. (AP Photo/Matt York)

He said the system only allows his office to tally about 75,000 votes a day. There are another 375,000 votes outstanding in Maricopa County alone as of Thursday night.

U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks to supporters at the Barton Barr Central Library, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Phoenix. Sinema and Republican challenger Martha McSally are seeking the senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is retiring in January.(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks to supporters at the Barton Barr Central Library, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Phoenix. Sinema and Republican challenger Martha McSally are seeking the senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is retiring in January.(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The two Senate campaigns have long braced for a slow vote count. McSally is no stranger to the issue. It took The Associated Press 12 days to declare a winner in McSally’s first race for Congress, which she narrowly lost in 2012.

On Thursday, she tweeted: “Woke up this morning dreading a long and painful process. I’ve been here before, and now, here I am again.the dentist’s chair.” She attached a photo of herself leaning back at the dentist’s office, about to get her teeth examined.

U.S. Senate candidate and Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema poses in between America Corrales and Terry Bortin in front of media on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at the couple's taco restaurant in Phoenix. Sinema, who is locked in a tight race with Republican Rep. Martha McSally is spending the final hours of election day talking to voters. (AP Photo/Terry Tang)
U.S. Senate candidate and Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema poses in between America Corrales and Terry Bortin in front of media on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at the couple’s taco restaurant in Phoenix. Sinema, who is locked in a tight race with Republican Rep. Martha McSally is spending the final hours of election day talking to voters. (AP Photo/Terry Tang)

Sinema also had to wait for finality in her first congressional election that year, sweating out six long days of vote counts. She prevailed.

FILE--In this Nov. 3, 2018, file photo, a supporter, left, crosses her fingers as she talks with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, right, at a get-out-the-vote event at the Arizona Education Association headquarters in Phoenix. The congresswomen running for Arizona Senate are in their final campaign swing as Republican Rep. Martha McSally barnstormed across rural Arizona and Sinema dashed around metro Phoenix. The two candidates were trying to turn out every last voter in the neck-and-neck race. (AP Photo/Bob Christie, File)
FILE–In this Nov. 3, 2018, file photo, a supporter, left, crosses her fingers as she talks with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, right, at a get-out-the-vote event at the Arizona Education Association headquarters in Phoenix. The congresswomen running for Arizona Senate are in their final campaign swing as Republican Rep. Martha McSally barnstormed across rural Arizona and Sinema dashed around metro Phoenix. The two candidates were trying to turn out every last voter in the neck-and-neck race. (AP Photo/Bob Christie, File)

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Source: The Associated Press

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