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'Late earlies:' Why Arizona's Senate race is still not decided

Counties are still counting hundreds of thousands of ballots.

PHOENIX — Hundreds of thousands of Arizona voters turned in early ballots on Election Day, leading to a long counting process that continued Thursday.

"Late earlies" are these early ballots that require more time and labor to verify, remove from an envelope and hand count.

Counting these ballots could take over a week. As many as 650,000 votes remain to be counted.

As of Thursday afternoon, Martha McSally led Kyrsten Sinema in the Arizona Senate race by 17,000 votes.

REAL-TIME RESULTS: 12News.com/elections

Arizona Republican party officials sued Wednesday night, challenging the way counties have allowed voters to fix problems with signatures on mailed-in early ballots.

RELATED: Judge sets hearing after Arizona GOP requests to limit mail-in ballots in Senate race

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes declined to speculate on the GOP's motives at a Thursday afternoon news conference but vowed all eligible votes would be counted. The judge denied the request in the lawsuit to stop counting votes immediately but set a hearing to Friday.

Votes are being counted every day Maricopa County. Fontes says daily updates on counts will happen at 5 p.m.

Critics are calling the lawsuit voter suppression because these "late earlies" from urban areas would help Sinema, the Democrat, the most.

Actress and activist Alyssa Milano called on her Twitter followers to contact the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to encourage them to count every vote.