An update on the status of the Senate elections:
Independent (currently caucus with Democrats): 2
Still up in the air:
EDIT: NBC and the Portland Oregonian newspaper have called the Oregon Senate race for Merkley, the Democrat. [12:30pm 11/6/08]
EDIT2: And the Republican has conceded. Oregon now has 2 Democratic Senators. [2:15pm 11/6/08]
- Recount in Minnesota
- Runoff election in Georgia very likely
- Still counting votes in Alaska
My predictions about the outcome of the races:
- Oregon: Probably Democratic
- Alaska: Probably Republican, despite Ted Stevens’ seven felony convictions last week
- Minnesota: Absolutely too close to call
- Georgia: Toss-up if it goes to a runoff, which looks likely.
My predictions about when we’ll know the results of the outstanding races:
- Oregon: later today or tomorrow
- Alaska: sometime next week
- Georgia: December 2, when they have the runoff, or shortly thereafter
- Minnesota: Mid-December, because it’ll take at least that long for them to hand-count 2.8 million ballots
Also adding to the mix is the possibility that Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who currently caucuses with the Democrats, might switch caucuses, either through his own choice, or because the Democrats might kick him out of their caucus for supporting John McCain.
So, in order to get to 60 votes, the Democrats have to win all four of the outstanding races, and keep Joe Lieberman. As the magic 8-ball would say: Outlook not so good.
96% of precincts reporting:
Republican Saxby Chambliss: 49.9%
Democrat Jim Martin 46.7%
Under Georgia law, if neither candidate wins a majority, the two highest vote-getters must face each other in a runoff held on Dec. 2. This seat was never likely to be won outright by Jim Martin, but Democrats hoped that they could send it to a runoff, which it looks like they have accomplished. We won’t know officially until next week when the results are certified.
85% of precincts reporting
Republican Gordon Smith: 47.21%
Democrat Jeff Merkley: 46.87%
This race could still potentially go either way, as they’re still counting votes. However, it seems pretty safely Democratic, since one of the largest sections of ballots left to count is in heavily Democratic Multnomah County, where Portland is located. Merkley is currently leading Multnomah with 67% of the vote, and 60% of the votes counted.
Oregon takes a long time to count their votes since they practice mail-in voting, where all ballots must be processed in one central location. Yesterday they were predicting that they would finish counting today.
99.3% of precincts reporting
Republican Ted Stevens: 48.06% 106351 votes
Democrat Mark Begich: 46.54% 102998 votes
In addition to 3 precincts, there are 46,156 Absentee votes, 9507 Early votes, and 5725 disputed votes left to be counted. Begich would have to come out 5 percentage points ahead in this group in order to take the lead, which seems unlikely.
Should Stevens be re-elected, and either resign or be expelled from the Senate, Alaska law requires a special election to be held within 90 days, limiting the duration of any Sarah Palin appointee. Apparently, there is some question as to whether this law violates the US Constitution, however.
Minnesota: (my home state)
With 100% of precincts reporting, as of 9:26am on 11/6/2008
Democrat Al Franken: 41.98% 1,211,167 votes
Republican Norm Coleman: 41.99% 1,211,644 votes
Independence Party Dean Barcley: 15.16% 437,382 votes
This is a difference of 477! votes out of over 2.8 million cast. To give you an idea of how close that is, there were 2,341 write-in votes, which is over 5 times the number of votes separating Coleman and Franken.
According to Minnesota law, the state must pay for a recount if the margin of victory is less that 0.5%, which is exactly what is happening now. Minnesota uses exclusively paper ballots, which voters mark with a pen, so we won’t have any of the Florida hanging-chad business. The vast majority of voters use precinct-based, optical scan voting machines, which have the advantage of immediately spitting incorrectly marked ballots back to the voter, which greatly reduces inadvertent voter error. Optical scan machines also have a very low error rate, but it’s certainly greater than 0.01%. Minnesota law also provides some pretty clear guidelines for how to handle disputed ballots in a recount. With an optical-scan ballot, you have to fill in an oval, or complete an arrow, for your vote to be machine-counted. However, if you make any other clear indication of intent on the ballot, your vote will be counted during a recount. This includes a check mark, an x, circling the candidate’s name, whatever. The only thing you can’t do is put your initials on the
ballot, or some other mark that’s intended to identify it. Lawyers from either party can challenge a ballot, and if it is disputed, it will be sent to St. Paul to be reviewed by the state canvassing board, which consists of the (Democratic) Secretary of State, and four non-partisan judges, appointed by non-partisan judges. Every ballot must be examined by hand, which is likely to take a very long time. The last time Minnesota had a recount in a major statewide race was the 1962 Governor’s race, where the race flipped twice, and the margin was even closer than this one. That recount dragged on until March. This one is unlikely to last quite that long.
Al Franken is a former SNL writer, liberal talk-show host, and comedian. Norm Coleman is the Democrat turned Republican former mayor of St. Paul, MN, and was elected to the Senate in 2002, following a late-October plane crash that killed the Democratic incumbent, Paul Wellstone. Former vice president Walter Mondale was drafted at the last minute to take Wellstone’s spot on the ballot, but narrowly lost to Coleman. The Governor at the time was Jesse Ventura, of the Independence party, who had initially promised to appoint the winner of the election to fill out the remaining 2 months of Wellstone’s term, thus giving the new Minnesota senator a seniority advantage over the rest of the freshman senators, but ended up appointing Dean Barcley, of his own Independence Party, to serve for 2 months.