Don’t be surprised if early election returns for the statewide races this evening make Republicans happy and Democrats worried.
Republicans will likely show leads in the early statewide returns because those returns will not include heavily Democratic northwest Indiana, which follows Central Standard Time. When the polls in most of the state close at 6 p.m., it will be 5 p.m. in the northwest part of the state, where counting won’t start until an hour later.
The northwest Indiana returns could make the difference in the close Richard Mourdock-Joe Donnelly Senate race.
In all, 12 Hoosier counties – six each in northwest and southwest Indiana – are on Central time, but the northwest region is the most heavily populated and more politically one-sided.
In addition to being tossup states in Senate races, Indiana and Montana have something else in common: A Libertarian candidate could affect the outcome.
In a poll last week that showed Donnelly leading Mourdock, Libertarian Andrew Horning was favored by 6 percent of the respondents. That’s about typical in Indiana – in 2010, Rebecca Sinks-Burris received about 5 percent. But Horning could win additional votes from Republicans who don’t support Mourdock but don’t want to vote for a Democrat.
Considering that other polls have placed the two major-party candidates in a statistical tie, Horning could be a spoiler.
Similarly, in Montana, Republican Denny Rehberg was up 4 percentage points against Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester. But, as Politico.com observed, if Libertarian Dan Cox receives more than 5 percent, Tester would likely benefit.
If Mourdock wins the Senate race, Gov. Mitch Daniels will have the chance to appoint a second statewide official who is otherwise elected.
Mourdock would have to resign as state treasurer by Jan. 3 to begin his Senate term, and Daniels would name his replacement. Earlier this year, the governor appointed state Sen. Connie Lawson as Indiana secretary of state after Charlie White was convicted of voter fraud.
If Mourdock wins the Senate race but Democrat John Gregg is elected governor, Daniels still would name Mourdock’s replacement because the new governor won’t be sworn in until Jan. 14.
When will we know?
One of the big questions Americans have today is when they will know the result of the presidential election.
No one wants a repeat of 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled five weeks after Election Day that George W. Bush had won Florida and the presidency. But legal battles are almost certain. Close states with numerous provisional ballots could well go into additional days, and don’t forget that in Washington state, ballots must be postmarked by today – but might not show up for days.
Still, some observers believe the swing states – and therefore, the election – will be called by the end of the night.