Key races to determine control of the Senate in Arizona and Nevada have yet to be called as both states race to count hundreds of thousands of ballots that have yet to be processed.
It still may be hours – or days – before enough ballots are counted in those states to determine who won the Senate and gubernatorial races in both states. There are also still many key congressional races uncalled in California and Colorado that will determine what the House looks like when the new Congress is seated in January.
The unofficial results – and lingering uncertainty about who will control Congress next year – hasn’t prevented Republican apprehension about the election results, where an expected GOP wave never materialized. The results have raised new questions about House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s path to the speakership and added a new layer to a potentially looming 2024 feud between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Here’s what you should know as the counting continues:
The biggest reason it’s taking so long is the way that each state handles the ballots outside of those cast at polling places on Election Day, including both early votes and mail-in ballots.
In Arizona, for instance, CNN estimates there are roughly 540,000 ballots to be counted. The majority of those, about 350,000 ballots, are in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county that includes Phoenix.
Of those ballots, about 290,000 were dropped off at vote centers on Election Day. A top official told CNN late Thursday that the county expects to start releasing the first results from those outstanding ballots Friday evening.
“We should start to see those tomorrow, I believe – we’ll start seeing those come in,” said Bill Gates, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Those ballots have to be processed before they can be counted, leading to a lag time in tabulating. The mail-in ballots dropped off were “a record” for the county, Gates said.
In addition, Maricopa County has about 17,000 ballots that were not read by the tabulator on Election Day because of a printer error, and those ballots still need to be counted, too.
The county had not yet started counting the 290,000 ballots dropped off on Election Day, Gates said Thursday.
In Pima County, Arizona’s second-most populous, Elections Director Constance Hargrove told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and John King the county has been able to report batches of approximately 20,000 ballots per day, and anticipated another ballot drop of 20,000 on Friday.
“We will be working through the weekend and get through most of those ballots – not all of those ballots – probably by no later than Monday morning,” Hargrove said.
In Nevada, the state law allows mail-in ballots to be received through Saturday, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day, meaning counties are still receiving ballots to be counted.
As of Thursday evening, CNN’s Decision Desk estimates approximately 95,000 votes remain outstanding.
In Clark County, the state’s largest that includes Las Vegas, there are more than 50,000 ballots still to be counted, Clark County registrar Joe Gloria said Thursday.
The lackluster performance of several Trump-endorsed candidates in battleground states has cast new doubts on Trump’s potential 2024 campaign launch that’s expected at an event scheduled for Tuesday.
At the same time, DeSantis’ resounding reelection victory in Florida is fueling calls for him to capitalize on his momentum and challenge Trump for the 2024 nomination.
The beginning of the presidential jockeying right after the midterms is nothing new, but the potential fight in the Republican Party looking toward 2024 is particularly noteworthy after Trump teed up the night before the election that he would be making an announcement in Florida next week.
The Trump-DeSantis showdown has been simmering for months now, but it could burst into the open as the 2024 primary season officially gets underway. A Trump adviser told CNN Wednesday that DeSantis “was already having a moment but the spotlight just quadrupled in intensity” after Tuesday’s election.
McCarthy is moving swiftly to lock down votes needed to claim the speaker’s gavel in the next Congress, as Republicans still appear to be closing in on a majority in the House even after Democrats had a better-than-expected night on Tuesday. CNN has not yet projected a Republican takeover of the chamber.
McCarthy privately spoke to his closest advisers and confidantes in a Wednesday morning phone call. The California Republican tapped a group of members to be on his whip team that will help him secure the votes to win the speakership in January, with GOP lawmakers on the call promising to “work hard to get him elected,” according to a source familiar with the matter.
And several allies were seen popping in and out of McCarthy’s office on Wednesday as they started to hash out and execute their game plan. “Yes,” McCarthy said confidently Wednesday night as he left the Capitol and was asked if he had the votes to assume the speakership.
But the ultimate size of a Republican majority could determine how difficult it will be for McCarthy to become speaker, as a narrow majority could prompt the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus to stand in the way of McCarthy’s leadership ambitions.
A source familiar with the Freedom Caucus’ deliberations told CNN on Wednesday morning there are around two dozen current and incoming members willing to vote against McCarthy if he doesn’t offer them concessions.