Control of the Senate will likely not be clear on Wednesday, Nov. 9, due to election laws in three key swing states.
The secretaries of state in Georgia and Washington and the secretary of the commonwealth in Pennsylvania are unlikely to declare the victors in their Senate races on election night. Rules governing the submission of mail-in ballots in Washington and Pennsylvania mean that a large number will not be counted on election night, while Georgia requires winning candidates to garner at least 50% support.
In 2020, election analysts did not declare a winner in Pennsylvania until Saturday, Nov. 7, four days after voters cast their ballots. Such a declaration could be similarly delayed in 2022, Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman said, due to state law prohibiting jurisdictions from counting mail-in ballots before Election Day. (RELATED: ‘Added Confusion And Chaos’: Pennsylvania’s Mail-In Voting Decision Has Local Officials Scrambling)
“This delay does not mean anything nefarious is happening,” she explained, according to the Pennsylvania Capital Star. “It simply means that the process is working as it’s designed to work in Pennsylvania and that election officials are doing their job to count every vote.”
Under PA law, counties cannot begin pre-canvassing of mail ballots until 7 am on Election Day.
We understand that people want results ASAP — but counting takes time.
— Acting Secretary Leigh M. Chapman (@PAStateSec) October 31, 2022
Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz are polling within the margin of error in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. More than 854,000 Pennsylvanians have already returned early ballots, according to numbers released to ABC 27 by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.
Similarly, the state of Washington’s law regulating mail-in ballots could prevent an early call in the Senate race between incumbent Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Tiffany Smiley. The state’s universal mail-in regime allows voters to submit their ballots as late as Election Day. Analysts called Washington’s primary results nearly a week after the Aug. 2 race.
“By statute, Washington will count every ballot postmarked or put into a county drop box by 8 pm Election Day. Historically, about 40-50% of the ultimate vote count is reflected in election night reporting, largely from ballots received before Election Day. In most cases, a large majority of the total count is available by Friday of election week,” a spokesman for the Washington Secretary of State’s office told the Daily Caller.
“Because voters have until Nov. 28 to cure their ballot if it is challenged due to a signature mismatch or another issue, we will see additional ballots be added to the counts until Nov. 29 when counties certify their results.”
FiveThirtyEight considers Georgia’s Senate race the tipping point for control of the upper chamber. Several polls have shown Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker running within the margin of error, with Libertarian Chase Oliver drawing between two and four percent. If no candidate receives 50%, Georgia will conduct a run-off on Dec. 6.