Republicans remained on pace to likely wrest control of the U.S. House, even as Democrats picked up a few more victories in close races late Wednesday and into the day Thursday.
As of about 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, The Associated Press had called 209 races for Republicans. That put them ahead of Democrats’ 191, and means GOP candidates would have to win only nine of the remaining 35 contests yet to be called to hold 218 of the 435 seats in the House.
Major elections forecasters consider Republicans favored to clear that hurdle because many of the races yet to be called favor the GOP.
Many of the outstanding races are in Western states that collect ballots primarily by mail, which means they take longer for elections workers to receive and count them.
In Oregon, for example, where three of the state’s six U.S. House districts remain in doubt, ballots must arrive by a week after Election Day — Nov. 15 — as long as they were postmarked Nov. 8 or earlier.
In Nevada, where three of four House races and a critical U.S. Senate race remain uncalled, ballots must be received by Saturday.
The lengthy vote-counting process, while expected and fully permissible under state laws, gave rise to unfounded claims from former President Donald Trump and some allies that the counting was somehow corrupted.
The top elections official for Nevada’s largest county shot back at Trump, who said without evidence Thursday that the long counting times in Nevada and Arizona meant cheating was involved.
“We couldn’t go any faster now, even if we wanted to,” Joe Gloria, the Clark County registrar, said in a Thursday news conference.
Democrats pick off toss-ups
The Associated Press called key races for Democrats on Wednesday and Thursday, with Gabriel Vasquez defeating incumbent Republican Yvette Harrell in New Mexico and Susan Wild winning reelection in Pennsylvania.
Ryan Zinke, a Republican former member in an unexpectedly close race to win Montana’s new 2nd Congressional District, was projected the winner Thursday morning.
Among those not yet counted were two California districts that were expected to favor the GOP ahead of Election Day and where initial canvassing appears to show a sizable advantage of the Republican candidates.
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s race in Colorado also appeared likely to return the Republican to Congress, though a recount will be needed as the far-right incumbent led by less than 1,000 votes Thursday. State law calls for an automatic recount if the margin is within one-half of 1% of the winner’s vote total.
Some results weeks away
At least three races appear unlikely to be called for a week or more, due to the ranked choice voting procedures in Alaska and Maine and the likely recount in Boebert’s race.
In Alaska, if incumbent Democrat Mary Peltola doesn’t clinch a majority of votes on the first ballot, which she led Thursday afternoon with 47.3% of the vote with 80% counted, the ranked choice process could last for two weeks.
In Maine, which has a similar ranked-choice process, incumbent Democrat Jared Golden claimed victory even though he appeared short of a majority on the first ballot. The state will tabulate second-choice votes starting one week after election day.
Little change in Arizona, Nevada
U.S. Senate control will come down to races in Arizona and Nevada and a Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia, with each party needing to win two of those three to win a majority of seats in the evenly divided Senate.
There was no major movement in the Arizona and Nevada races, with incumbent Democrats Mark Kelly in Arizona slightly ahead and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada barely trailing their GOP challengers, Blake Masters in Arizona and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt.