Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Undecided" Races Are Still Very Undecided

There are always election races which remain undecided the morning after election day, They occur at every level of government, from the very local to statewide races with national implications.

Apparently, eleven U.S. house races have not yet been called. One U.S. senate race remains undecided, and at least one major governorship.

I will turn attention here to the senate races and the gubernatorial contest.

In Alaska, a three-way race in which the incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski had to run as a write-in candidate, the GOP nominee Joe Miller trails “Write-in” by thirteen thousand votes, but not all of the write-in votes are necessarily for Murkowski. In fact, there are more than 150 bona fide write-in candidates in this race, as allowed by Alaska election law. Furthermore, a sizable percentage of write-in votes (6-8%) are usually disallowed, and in this case, with election recount lawyers everywhere, that percentage is likely to be much higher. Many absentee ballots reportedly are also not yet counted. Write-ins, many of which were sent in before Murkowski announced her effort, are much more likely to provide a significant margin for Miller. This vote count could take weeks or months, especially since every write-in will be examined. If there is a recount after the final official vote, it could be many more months before a senator would be seated.

In Minnesota, Democrat (DFLer) Mark Dayton came out with a margin of less than one-half of one per cent in the raw count in his race against Republican Tom Emmer. If this margin holds or even grows a bit after an official canvas, there will be a mandatory recount according to state law. The canvas will go until the end of November. The recount almost certainly will go into next year. Because the DFL challenged the 2008 U.S. senate race when Incumbent GOP Senator Norm Coleman had a lead after the canvas, and the recount gave his opponent the seat in a bitter confrontation between campaign attorneys, it is almost certain that the GOP this time will do everything legal they can to reverse Dayton’s lead. They may not succeed, but if the recount goes into next year, they will have a win anyway. That is because, in a surprise upset, the GOP won both houses of the state legislature for the first time in 68 years. According to the state constitution, the retiring governor (in this case, GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty) remains in office until his successor takes the oath of office. Since the first session of the new legislature is scheduled only to last three months, the Republicans could theoretically enact their entire legislative program without fear of veto. Thus, if he won the recount, Governor Dayton might arrive in his office in St. Paul AFTER much of the legislation he would have vetoed was already irreversibly the law. Governor Pawlenty, who is running for president, has already announced that he is prepared to fulfill the constitution, and continue in office until the recount is resolved.

Recently, Brazil (which has a population of 200 million persons) held its national elections, and reportedly virtually all of its election returns were counted and reported only a few hours after polls closed. In the United States, even in races that are not close, election officials often do not count or report their totals until many hours after polls close or until even until the next day. Delayed returns routinely provoke charges of vote fraud in Chicago, Gary, IN, Philadelphia, St. Louis and in northern Minnesota (just to name a few). How is that a relatively new representative democracy with a huge population and a large land area (Brazil) can count its votes promptly and credibly report them, and the world’s oldest representative democracy (United States of America) cannot?

It is our national shame.

No comments:

Post a Comment