We’re just two days away from finding out the results of the most heated midterm elections in a generation. Mostly.
Many of the top election battles are likely to be called on Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. But for a variety of factors, the political world may have to wait a while longer before having certainty in some key battles, including in some of the country’s hottest races. Here’s why:
A number of races across the South have runoffs if no candidate wins a majority of the vote — including arguably the tensest governor’s race in the country.
In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams and Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) have been within a point or two of one another in virtually every private and public poll in the last two months.
There’s a Libertarian candidate on the ballot as well who is expected to draw a few percentage points of the vote, boosting the likelihood that neither candidate will reach 50 percent in the nail-biter of a race. Both sides are privately girding for a possible runoff, which would take place on Dec. 4.
A runoff is also a near-certainty in Mississippi’s Senate race. Appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) is looking to win a full term, facing off against firebrand conservative Chris McDaniel (R) and former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy (D). A recent NBC/Marist poll had her leading the race with 38 percent, followed by Espy at 29 percent and McDaniel at 15 percent, meaning it’s likely to be a ho-hum contest where she’s favored over Espy ahead of the Nov. 27 election. If something major happens and McDaniel somehow makes the runoff, that would be a much more interesting race.
Slow Counts In Close Races
Runoffs aren’t the only spots where elections could drag on.
Every election year, a number of races are too close to be called on election night. That’s even more likely to happen in states that heavily or completely rely on vote-by-mail like California, Arizona and Washington.
That could be a major drag if the fight for the House ends up being closer than expected. Right now, the most likely scenario is that Democrats pick up enough seats early in the night that it’s clear the House is breaking their way. We could be waiting days or even weeks before the half-dozen competitive California House races are called, and if Republicans perform just a bit better across the board than expected, that could be a long wait.
It also could be frustrating if, as expected, Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) go down to the wire.
Texas also tends to have very slow vote counts, especially in Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-TX) sprawling border district. Both he and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are favored heading into Election Day, but if things get surprisingly close in either race it could be a while before the outcome is clear.
Another state that’s likely to go late if races are close is Alaska. The sprawling state has far-flung localities with limited connections to the outside world, and close and unpredictable contests for governor and the state’s at-large House seat could drag for days.
Most years, a handful of House races are simply too close to call on election night. That’s unlikely to matter too much in the big picture, but a few candidates and their supporters are likely to go to bed late on election night feeling rather uncertain about their futures.
And every now and again it happens in the Senate as well — Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) had to wade through a months-long court case in 2008 before being declared the winner over then-Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN).
The midterms are a marathon. And at least in some places, they’ll likely go an extra mile.
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