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U.S. election day? More like election week as experts warn of delayed results

Growing popularity of early voting has complicated the counting process
Voters wait in line to make corrections to their ballots for the midterm elections at City Hall in Philadelphia, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke

Last-minute voters are headed to the polls across the United States today — but the results of the 2022 midterm elections may not be clear for days.

Campaign officials and political observers are warning Americans that they likely won’t know the final outcome before the end of the week.

The growing popularity of early voting, long a reality in the U.S. but never more so than since the COVID-19 pandemic, has complicated the counting process.

That’s producing ominous echoes of 2020 in battleground states like Pennsylvania, where polls suggest the fight for control of the Senate is coming down to the wire.

Brendan McPhillips, the campaign manager for Democratic Senate hopeful John Fetterman, is warning supporters that the final results will likely take several days.

McPhillips also says that because ballots that are cast on election day, which often favour Republicans, tend to be counted first, Fetterman’s rivals may try to declare premature victory.

“Republicans are already laying the groundwork to potentially spread false conspiracy theories about the likely ‘red mirage’ of ballot processing in Pennsylvania,” McPhillips said Monday in a note to supporters.

More than 1.4 million mail-in ballots were requested in Pennsylvania this year, he added — 70 per cent of them by registered Democrats, compared to 20 per cent by registered Republicans.

“We expect that in-person votes will skew Republican, and that mail votes will skew heavily Democratic — similar to how they did in 2020.”

McPhillips is worried about a repeat of what happened two years ago, when a strong Republican showing early helped to fuel the impression of a GOP victory, and later Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election.

Others, including the U.S. Department of Justice, are concerned that so-called “poll watchers” in states like Georgia, Arizona and Florida could be intent on discouraging people from exercising their right to vote.

The division of the Justice Department that monitors civil rights said Monday it would be keeping tabs on the polls in 64 counties across 24 states to ensure “compliance with federal voting rights laws.”

“Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Division has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters,” the department said in a release.

“The Civil Rights Division will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center.”

In other words, welcome to election day in the United States in 2022.

Democrats, buffeted by fierce electoral headwinds that include inflation, escalating fears of crime and a deeply unpopular president in the White House, have been leaning into what they describe as an effort to erode U.S. democracy.

“I understand that democracy might not seem like a top priority right now — especially when you’re worried about paying the bills,” former president Barack Obama told a rally Saturday in Philadelphia.

“But when true democracy goes away — we’ve seen throughout history, we’ve seen around the world — when true democracy goes away, people get hurt. It has real consequences.”

Much as it was in 2020, Pennsylvania is again the centre of the North American political universe, with the neck-and-neck battle between Fetterman and Republican challenger Dr. Mehmet Oz poised to determine control of the Senate.

As Obama and Biden feted Fetterman and gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, Trump himself was whipping up his own supporters in Latrobe at a rally widely seen as a preview of the former president’s own comeback bid.

He road-tested a new nickname for hard-charging rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, calling him “DeSanctimonious,” and all but declared he intends to run again, something the New York Times says he’ll make official before the end of the month.

Republican control of the House is widely seen as a foregone conclusion. The Senate, however, remains too close to call. And Pennsylvania is far from the only battleground that could determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

Trump also rallied Monday in Ohio, where venture capitalist and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance is vying against congressman Tim Ryan, who’s made no secret of his willingness to back the former president’s protectionist impulses.

In Arizona, Trump-adjacent Republican Kari Lake’s bid to become governor has consumed a lot of political oxygen and vaulted her onto the national stage, fuelling speculation she could end up on a presidential ticket before long.

Polls suggest Lake is nursing a narrow lead over her Democratic rival, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, while on the Senate side, Sen. Mark Kelly is trying to fend off a challenge from GOP hopeful Blake Masters.

Next door in Nevada, Republican Adam Laxalt has pulled ahead of incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, although like most of the battleground Senate races, his lead remains within the typical margin of error.

And if the results of the midterms won’t be clear for several days after polls close Tuesday night, it could take even longer to determine who controls the Senate if that ends up coming down to the fight in Georgia.

There, polls suggest Sen. Raphael Warnock is deadlocked with Herschel Walker, the football hero who remains in the running despite a long list of abortion controversies, campaign exaggerations and rhetorical pratfalls.

State law in Georgia requires a run-off election in the event no one candidate secures at least 50 per cent of the vote, which seems likely given the presence of Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver on the ballot.

The run-off vote in Georgia would take place Dec. 6.

—James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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