Get Ready For a Late One! Many Close Races Could Go Into - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

Get Ready For a Late One! Many Close Races Could Go Into Overtime

MSNBC.COM - In at least one race every election night, someone in a newsroom somewhere in America utters a phrase that raises a curtain on weeks of litigation, conference calls, and scrutinizing disputed ballots: "We could be going into overtime, folks."

This election year, with public polling showing jump balls in dozens of House contests and a handful of key statewide races, will probably be no different.

The prospect of recounts is a looming possibility not lost on both parties.

The Republican National Committee has launched a fundraising website called "" that warns potential donors of consequential recounts like the 2008 Minnesota contest that ended with Democrat Al Franken's swearing-in. "We can't just win," the site proclaims. "We have to win BIG!"

Even if there are no legal challenges or recounts, it's likely that the results of several contests will not be clear on the morning of November 3rd. And there are plausible scenarios in which the balance of power in the Senate — where Republicans must net 10 seats to regain the majority — is not known for days after Election Day.

Any of the nation's close races could end up subject to legal challenges, but here's a primer on three states where out-of-the-ordinary election rules could make for a complicated aftermath if the vote counts are microscopically close.

In Washington state, for example, Republican Senate candidate Dino Rossi — who was on the losing end of a grueling 2004 gubernatorial recount — could be in for another close election on Tuesday when he tries to oust three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

Under Washington's vote-by-mail system, ballots are counted if they are postmarked by midnight on Election Day, so some votes won't be counted until Wednesday or Thursday. Washington law requires a recount if the margin of victory is less than one thousand votes and also less than one-fourth of one percent of the total number of votes cast.

A McClatchy/Marist poll conducted last week showed Murray up over Rossi by just one percent.

Six years ago, Rossi's initially-declared victory in the governor's race was reversed eight weeks later after hundreds of misplaced ballots from heavily Democratic King County were discovered. Democrat Christine Gregoire was declared the winner by a margin of just 133 votes out of a total of more than 2.8 million votes cast.

Katie Blinn, the assistant elections director and an attorney in the Washington Secretary of State's office, said that since 2004 the state has implemented new procedures "to prevent probably one of the biggest issues that occurred in 2004: that ballots were misplaced."