Election Day Surprise: 2012 Will Be the Year of the Woman!

20 years after the first 'Year of the Woman,' we may see another -- and this one may leave women with a bigger role in Washington than ever before!

We predict an Election Day surprise that really shouldn't be a surprise in the first place. Women currently hold only 17% of the seats in the U.S. Senate and House, a paltry number when you consider that we make up more than one half of the country's population. But on the morning after the election, we're betting that number will increase -- meaning we'll have more women in Congress than ever before! Woo Hoo! This will make 2012 the 'Year of the Woman' 20 years after that label first came to be when four additional women were elected to the Senate and 24 to the House.

Now we are not predicting how high the percentage of women in Congress will rise to -- we're not Nate Silver of the New York Times after all! (He's the boy wonder predicting exactly how many Electoral College votes each candidate will get if this sounds like an inside joke!) But we're confident of an increase thanks to the record number of women running for Congress this year! 18 women are running for the U.S. Senate (12 Democrats and 6 Republicans) and 163 are running for the House (116 Democrats and 47 Republicans.)

Some of the names you've no doubt heard by now. If not, you'll likely be hearing a whole lot more about some of them very soon: Democrat Elizabeth Warren, the hard-charging consumer advocate who has a good chance of defeating popular Senator Scott Brown (yes, the former Cosmopolitan model!) in Massachusetts; Republican Mia Love of Utah who is poised to become the first African American GOP congresswoman if elected; Tammy Duckworth, the Iraqi war double amputee and former Department of Veterans Affairs official who's locked in a tight race for Congress in Illinois; Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief and mom of three boys who's hoping to represent Florida in the House; and Heidi Heitkamp who could make history as the first woman elected to the Senate from North Dakota.

Women are traditionally late deciders, so the big question is will any remaining undecided women choose women at the ballot box? We don't always support each other now do we? But here's one reason why I think we might this year. At a time when our country is bitterly divided and Congress has one of the lowest approval ratings in history, and when a growing frustration is that nothing ever gets done in Washington, women might choose women, believing they may be more likely to work with both parties to get results.

Just listen to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who's expected to easily win re-election in New York. She's raising money for Democratic women, but says that she'd welcome more women of the other party in Congress too. "I think electing more women can also change the dynamic of the Senate," she told New York Magazine. "Women tend to build consensus and reach across party lines more to get things done."

That's the same feeling of Connecticut voter Dorothy Martin-Neville, who told the New York Times she's a registered Democrat, will vote for President Obama and would like to see Democrats take control of the Senate but that she's still supporting the Republican Senate candidate in her state, World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon.

“I believe we need more women in politics,” she said. “There are women in Washington who are working to create the common good, and we need more of them."

Maybe we'll have more of them after Tuesday!

Watch as Chuck Todd, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent and Host of MSNBC's Daily Rundown, agrees with my election surprise when I joined Chuck's panel Saturday night:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Kelly Wallace is chief correspondent of iVillage. She covered politics as a reporter while at CNN and CBS News. You can follow Kelly's political tweets on Twitter (@kellywallacetv).

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