Last night I gave up on the Arizona Senate race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema at about 3 am Eastern time, midnight here in California. It turns out that was a good call because we probably won’t know who won that race until Thursday evening at the soonest.

According to the NY Times, with 99% of precincts (1,478 of 1,489) reporting, McSally leads Sinema 49.3% to 48.4%. That’s a difference of nearly 16,000 votes. However, as the Arizona Republic explains, those are the results that came in yesterday throughout the day. The state still hasn’t counted “late early ballots” and the next time we’ll get an update on those results is Thursday:

Recorder’s Office officials in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county, received data from polling locations well into the night, spokeswoman Murphy Hebert said. The system was being updated as ballots were processed, she said.

The data reflect in-person votes cast on Election Day. The office then starts processing the “late early ballots,” which include those dropped off at polling places on Election Day.

“That’s going to take days,” Hebert said.

She said the recorder will not update results Wednesday because of the lengthy signature-verification process. The next scheduled update is at 5 p.m. Thursday and then every day at 5 p.m. until the office is done counting ballots.

How many outstanding ballots are there? Over half a million according to a tally reported this morning:

Based on those numbers it sounds as if this race is going to get even tighter, but the NY Times’ estimate of the outstanding vote gives McSally a slight advantage: “We think about 546,000 votes remain to be counted. We think Martha McSally leads in that vote by about 949 votes, based on what we know about those counties and the votes counted so far.” In other words, the outstanding vote tally is going to be pretty close to a wash. If the Times’ estimate is correct or close to correct, McSally wins.

But there’s another wrinkle. If the final result is within 0.1 percent that would trigger an automatic recount. However, Eric Spencer, the state’s elections director, tells the Arizona Republic he expects someone will file a lawsuit before that happens:

He expects both parties to request public information from county recorders under the Arizona Public Records Law to seek to determine reporting discrepancies between official vote tallies and voters who cast ballots provisionally and those who voted early.

“The parties will spend the next five to seven days trying to chase those people down and alter the results in some small way. … The reality is that someone will go to federal court and argue that X group of ballots and Y group of ballots should or should not be counted.”

So that’s the reality here. There probably won’t be an automatic recount but the race is tight enough that one side or the other is going to take this to court.