Prepare For A Late Election Night

Given the polls we’re seeing right now, it’s fairly clear that the outcome of the 2010 midterms may keep candidates and pundits awake for quite some time on the night of November 2nd:

Just consider Washington State, where there appears to be a mere kitty whisker between Senator Patty Murray, the three-term Democrat, and her Republican challenger Dino Rossi.

Under state law in Washington, where nearly every vote is made by mail, ballots must carry a postmark through Election Day “from anywhere on the planet,” said David Ammons, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office there. Typically no more than 60 percent of the vote is actually tallied on election night, Mr. Ammons said, while the rest remain in court or en route.

As such, if there are a lot of close races, the balance of power in the Senate could theoretically hang on whether Ms. Murray, the fourth-ranking Democratic caucus member, can hold off Mr. Rossi. On the House side, Washington has three competitive races, which could also complicate matters if other seats nationwide end in a close call.

Historically, races tend to end up the way they trend in the earliest count of votes, Mr. Ammons said, “but if it is down to the wire, within a percentage or two,” he said, “it is definitely white-knuckle time. You’ll have to count every last ballot. And this Senate race is pretty much a tossup.”

Polls are also tight in Nevada, West Virginia, and Colorado, suggesting that one or all of those states could take some time to declare a winner on Election Night.

And then there’s Alaska.

As I noted yesterday, a recent poll show Lisa Murkowski and Joe Miller statistically tied. Assuming that holds up, it could be several weeks of write-in ballot counting, challenges, and, potentially, litigation before we know who wins up north. Combine that with close races in one or two other states, and we may not know which party controls the Senate until sometime in December at the earliest.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook