There are a couple of differences in how states handle early voting that could matter–perhaps even a lot–when the results start coming in. One is when mail ballots have to be received to be counted. Among the competitive Senate states, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, and New Hampshire all require that they be received by the time polls close on Election Day (Louisiana requires they be received the day before Election Day). But Alaska, Iowa and North Carolina all accept eligible ballots postmarked by Election Day and received later (by noon Friday in NC and by Tuesday of the following week in IA). Those of you familiar with the long delays in deciding elections in Washington State–an all-mail-ballot state which counts any ballots postmarked by Election Day–should have a good idea of how this could complicate very close races, especially with early voting sharply up this year.
A second difference is that Colorado and Iowa are allowing same-day voter registration and in-person voting on Election Day. According to the very guru of Early Voting, Michael McDonald, mobilizing such past non-voters is an integral part of the Democratic strategy in Colorado, which along with the shift to a system where all registered voters are sent mail ballots is a reason to take all the polls showing Cory Gardner in the lead with a pinch of salt.
I should mention while linking to McDonald that he thinks early voting trends are good if contingent news for Democrats in terms of Florida’s very close governor’s race; is slightly less positive about Kay Hagan than the pollsters (which calling the race extremely close); and is sure the Register poll showing Ernst with a sizable lead in Iowa is wrong. Here’s his interesting comment on Georgia:
The polls that show Perdue under 50% have the overall electorate around 30% African-American. Those that show a much bigger Perdue lead, like the Monmouth poll which has Perdue leading by +8, have African-Americans at 25% of the overall electorate. With perhaps a third of the vote already cast at 32.8%, it seems unlikely that there will be so few persons of color on Election Day. My best guess is that this election goes to a runoff.
Yeah, for all the crap about “waves” and “referenda,” this is a complicated election.