Experts are predicting that it could be days or even months before voters know which party will take control of the Senate, should one or two key races be forced into a runoff or if results are so close they require a recount.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com
said that in Georgia and Louisiana the probability is high that a victory will not be called on Election Night if any of the candidates fail to get the required 50 percent support needed to claim victory.
"A runoff in Georgia remains more likely than not. Our model gives [Republican David] Perdue about a 30 percent chance of winning outright on Nov. 4, while [Democrat Michelle] Nunn is down to only about a 10 percent chance of doing so. The rest of the time, the race will be runoff-bound," said the former New York Times statistician.
Georgia's runoff would take place on Jan. 6, three days after the opening of the 114th Congress.
"Georgia is not the only race that might require 'overtime,'" Silver added.
"Louisiana tops the list. Its Nov. 4 'jungle primary' ballot includes eight candidates; the top two will advance to a Dec. 6 runoff if none wins a majority on Nov. 4."
Silver's model currently predicts that Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu will get 45 or 46 percent of the vote, while Republican Bill Cassidy is on track to get 41 or 42 percent.
"A runoff is very likely," he said.
Meanwhile, in Alaska, where the polls close at 1:00 a.m. Eastern time, there is a chance that officials may not be able to call the race if the candidates come within a few points of each other.
"Our assumption is that either [incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark] Begich or [GOP challenger Dan] Sullivan would have to win by at least 5 percentage points for Alaska to be declared in time for the evening news on Nov. 5," Silver writes.
"Our model says there's about a 30 percent chance of that, and a 70 percent chance that things will take at least a little longer."
A recount in Kansas is also a possibility for incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts and independent Greg Orman, Silver said.
"There's a 60 percent chance that we'll be sweating out the races on a state-by-state basis, possible for weeks to come," he concluded.
, Director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said this week that it's a "safe bet" that Republicans will take control of the Senate, but qualified it by saying, "eventually."
"We say eventually because there's a decent chance we won't know who wins the Senate on Election Night. Louisiana is guaranteed to go to a runoff, and Georgia seems likelier than not to do the same," he said in his "Crystal Ball" analysis.
"Vote-counting in some states, like Alaska, will take days, and other races are close enough to trigger a recount."
also predicted the likelihood of runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia, saying, "It could create total chaos in Washington."
"With both races tight, the two runoffs appear more and more likely, and if they end up being the decisive for Senate control, the unprecedented scenario could throw Washington for a loop during the planned lame-duck session of Congress," Business Insider said.
"It could force party leaders to change strategy and shelve legislative priorities in favor of another few weeks of midterm policies."
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