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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Extending Election Night

The sudden tightening of the U.S. Senate race in Alaska, as reflected in recent polls and perhaps exacerbated by the bad press that GOP nominee Joe Miller has been richly earning, indicates that Election Night on November 2 could last for quite some time. Aside from the fact that polls in Alaska don’t close until midnight EDT, any close election that revolves around write-in votes (in this case, for incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski) is fraught with uncertainty, big questions about vote-counting, and likely litigation.
But there’s another potentially frustrating situation a bit south of Alaska, where Washington’s all-mail-ballot system allows the counting of votes postmarked by November 2. If the Senate fight between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi hangs fire, it will be days if not weeks before the results are known. And there are also a couple of potentially close House races in WA that might not be decided on November 2.
Finally, there’s Georgia, where general election victories require a majority of votes cast. You may recall that the 2008 U.S. Senate race there went into overtime, though a predictable drop-off of African-American and younger voters gave Republican Saxby Chambliss a relatively easy win in the December contest. Could an extended election happen there again this year, particularly in the heated gubernatorial race between Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes? Maybe, says Insider Advantage’s Matt Towery:

The last IA survey showed Barnes slowly improving his numbers among the critical independent swing vote. The trend was not necessarily reflected in the top line results of that poll once the weightings were done for other demographic groups. I’ll be keeping an eye on the independent numbers in the next poll of the race, and also on how Barnes is faring among whites. If he somehow can creep into the upper 20 percentile of whites, reach parity or take a slight lead among independents, and see the turnout among African-Americans reach at least 25 percent of the turnout on Nov. 2, then the two to three percent that Libertarian John Monds is likely to receive might shove Deal into a runoff.

I’d add that Republican disgruntlement with Deal could push the libertarian vote higher than the numbers Towery’s firm is currently showing. In any event, if it happens, it will be interesting to see if Republicans have the same sort of problems Democrats had in 2008 in motivating satisfied partisans to come back out for a runoff.

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