Democrats have retained control of the US Senate after the midterm elections, crushing any lingering Republican hopes for a red wave — but votes are still being tallied to determine who will take the House.
Decision Desk HQ called the race for Senate in Nevada on Saturday night for Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. With an estimated 98% of ballots counted, she'd taken 48.7% of the vote, compared with Republican challenger Adam Laxalt's 48.2%. The close race had come down to mail-in ballots in Clark County, which had taken several days to count.
The outcome of the Nevada race secured Democrats 50 seats in the Senate, while Republicans have won 49. Still to be determined is the fate of the Georgia seat, which will go to a runoff election next month after neither Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock nor Republican candidate Herschel Walker won more than 50% of the vote.
But even if they win in Georgia, Republicans can no longer outnumber Democrats in the Senate; if each party has 50 seats, a tie vote is broken by the president of the Senate, according to the Constitution. That role is filled by Vice President Kamala Harris, who has already regularly helped Democrats move forward their agenda by casting a tiebreaking vote in the first two years of the Biden administration.
Now all eyes are turning to the remaining uncalled races in the House, where 218 seats are necessary to secure a majority. Before the election, Republicans had been favored to win there — it's typical in a midterm for the party that doesn't control the White House to do well. As of Sunday morning, the GOP had won 211 seats, including seven that had previously been held by Democrats.
But 24 races haven't yet received a call, a decision that the Associated Press explained it makes when there's no way for the candidate who is behind to catch up based on outstanding votes. As things stand now, Republicans look likely to keep their lead in enough places to take control of the House, but no one will know for sure until more votes are counted.
And counting simply takes a long time, particularly in states like California and Arizona. California accepts mail-in ballots for a week, as long as they're postmarked by Election Day. Arizonans also vote by mail in large numbers, and increasingly this year, they waited until Election Day to drop off those early ballots, which further slowed the counting process.
That's inspired conspiracy theories from former president Donald Trump and far-right candidates, prompting even fellow Republican officials to plead publicly for patience.
In Arizona, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Gates said Friday that election workers are moving as efficiently as they can while also verifying signatures on ballots to ensure that they're legal. He noted that in addition to the delay prompted by the historic jump in mail-in ballots dropped off on Election Day, Arizona law allows people five business days to "cure" ballots that had any issues, such as a signature that wasn't accepted or ID that was not presented when voting.
He added that he expects to see 95%–99% of votes counted by early next week. With races as close as they are in the swing state, it may take that long to get final calls.
"For folks who have followed Arizona politics for many years, this is very, very common," he said.
"I know people are very anxious to get the results, but there's nothing out of the ordinary here."