Nearly three days after polls closed in the 2018 midterm elections, there remain a number of key contests that are unresolved for various reasons, ranging from uncounted late ballots to voting anomalies to just crazy-close races. All in all there are ten House races, all in districts held by Republicans, unresolved, along with two Senate races (one involving a Democratic incumbent and another an open Republican seat) and two Republican-held governorships. Let’s go through them by category:
The Late, Late Show in California
California is an increasingly heavy voting-by-mail state (those who register as voters-by-mail automatically get ballots sent to them so long as they continue to vote). Ballots postmarked by Election Day but received by close of business on the Friday afterward are counted. So ballots are still coming in, and those received on or after Election Day are just being verified (to determine they were cast by actual voters) and counted, along with the usual provisional ballots whose validity must be adjudicated. As of yesterday, an astonishing 4.5 million ballots — perhaps as much as 40 percent of the total — were left to count. Naturally, that means a lot of close races cannot reliably be called.
That includes five U.S. House races in districts currently held by Republicans, three of them centered in Orange County, the country’s most intense political cockpit this year. At the moment one Orange County incumbent, Mimi Walters, is narrowly leading and another, Dana Rohrabacher, is narrowly trailing. Republican Young Kim has a tiny lead in the fight for an open seat in Orange County. Elsewhere, Republican incumbent Jeff Denham is narrowly in the lead in a central California district, and his GOP colleague Steve Knight trails by a similar margin in a district just north of Los Angeles. While all these races are unresolved, history suggests the very latest votes tend to lean Democratic, so Republicans are in danger of losing all five seats.
The big statewide ballot initiatives are almost certainly settled, with a Republican-backed gas-tax repeal measure failing after getting a lot of hype as a turnout generator. Democratic efforts to regain state legislative supermajorities look promising, but are still up in the air.
One House Race Waiting on Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting
Maine has implemented a ranked-choice voting system in which voters indicate additional preferences in multi-candidate races where no one achieves a majority. That could be the deciding factor in the razor-thin race involving Republican congressman Bruce Poliquin, whose tiny plurality lead over Democrat Jared Golden is unlikely to survive a ranked-choice reallocation of votes for two left-bent independent candidates in a process that will conclude next week.
Other Unresolved House Races
There are four other too-close-to call House races scattered around the country. In New Jersey’s suburban Third District, Democrat Andy Kim claimed victory over incumbent Tom MacArthur the day after the election, but late absentee and provisional ballots are still being called with Kim holding only a one-point lead. The situation is similar in Georgia with the parties reversed; Republican incumbent Rob Woodall in the North Atlanta suburban Seventh District has a one-point lead over Democrat Carolyn Bordeaux with absentee and provisional votes outstanding. Texas Republican congressman Will Hurd has an even smaller lead over Gina Ortiz Jones with final votes trickling in. And although the race has not been called or conceded, things do not look good for Utah GOP congresswoman Mia Love as late mail ballots come in; President Trump, during his Wednesday news conference, labeled her a loser for failing to sufficiently support him.
The Slow, Close Senate Race in Arizona
Arizona doesn’t have quite as big a backlog of mail ballots as California, but an estimated 600,000 remained left to count after Election Day. After trailing on election night, Democratic congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema has taken a tiny lead over her Republican colleague Martha McSally for an open Republican Senate seat. Republicans have been claiming that election officials in two big counties are giving those who cast provisional ballots (those deemed to have a “problem”) too much time to “cure” them, but haven’t made any leeway in the courts so far. The race is close enough that it may trigger Arizona’s very restrictive recount threshold of one-tenth of one percent.
The Mess in Florida
A large and increasingly loud dispute is opening up over the outcome of the Senate and gubernatorial races in Florida, which were ostensibly won on election night by Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis. The most fractious issue is the Senate race, where Scott’s small lead over incumbent Bill Nelson could soon reach the threshold for a mandatory hand recount. That’s significant because Nelson’s camp contends a major undercount of Senate votes in Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) may have been caused by a voting-machine tabulation error. Scott is alleging (without any specific evidence) a Broward conspiracy to “steal” the election, a charge that Donald Trump has already echoed. The brouhaha is also casting doubt on the gubernatorial outcome, though the margin between DeSantis and Democratic Andrew Gillum is large enough that only a machine recount seems likely to be triggered, and those rarely change a lot of votes.
The Deadlock in Georgia
Georgia’s gubernatorial race wasn’t quite as close as Florida, but the complication is that state law requires a majority of the vote for victory. While Republican Brian Kemp has a 63,000 vote lead over Democrat Stacey Abrams, he’s only 0.3 percent above 50 percent, and as late absentee ballots have been counted and provisional ballots resolved, he’s been gradually losing some of his margin. There have also been some hints from the Abrams camp that there were some election irregularities that require judicial scrutiny, which isn’t surprising since Kemp’s conflict of interest as the state administrator of an election in which he is competing, along with his reputation as an avid vote suppressor, were issues throughout the campaign. Kemp has declared victory, resigned as secretary of state, and begun a transition operation, but Abrams won’t concede. If Kemp slips below 50 percent, the two will face off in a December 4 runoff.