Nov. 20 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 365   McCain 173  
Senate Dem 58   GOP 40   Ties 2
House Dem 255   GOP 175   Ties 5

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strong Dem Strong Dem (258)
weak Dem Weak Dem (33)
barely Dem Barely Dem (74)
tied Exactly tied (0)
barely GOP Barely GOP (14)
weak GOP Weak GOP (39)
strong GOP Strong GOP (120)
270 Electoral votes needed to win
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Presidential polls today: (None) RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO FL IN IA NV NM NC OH VA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA SMS

PW logo Finding Political Jobs Is Obama Wooing McCain?
Challenged Ballots: You Decide Most Americans Favor Clinton at State
Pritzker Nomination in Doubt Democrats Pick Waxman Over Dingell

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McCain Wins Missouri

John McCain won Missouri. It was close. His margin of victory was only 3632 votes out of 2.9 million cast. This means the final electoral vote tally is 365 to 173, more than 2 to 1 for Obama. For Missourians, the downside of going for McCain is the state loses its much-heralded bellwether status--it has voted with the winner every time since 1956--except 2008.

Stevens Concedes

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has conceded defeat in his Senate reelection bid. Anchorage mayor Mark Begich will be the new senator from Alaska. He brings the total of Democratic senators to 58, with Minnesota doing a recount and Georgia having a runoff on Dec. 2.

Instant Runoff Voting

Yesterday's posting mentioned that Bob Bird got 12,000 votes in Alaska that would undoubtedly otherwise have gone to Ted Stevens. As a consequence of Bird's presence on the ballot, Mark Begich was elected, something Bird voters probably did not want. Several readers mentioned that the problem lies in the voting system. There are other voting systems, such as instant runoff voting that handle this kind of situation much better. In IRV, as it is called, the voter is asked to mark his or her first choice, second choice, etc. on the ballot. Conceptually, when the votes are counted, they are sorted into piles based on everyone's first choice (which in the case of the Alaska Senate race would have contained a pile for Bird with 12,000 votes). If some candidate gets 50% of the votes, he or she wins and the election is over.

If no one gets 50%, the people who voted for the least popular candidate are told: "Your candidate didn't win. Who is your second choice?" Since they have already marked their second choice, nobody has to actually ask them. Instead, all the votes in the smallest pile are now redistributed based on their second choice. The other votes stay where they were. If somebody now has over 50%, he or she wins. Otherwise, the process is repeated by again taking the smallest pile and redistributing the votes to the highest ranked choice still in contention. Eventually you get down to two candidates in which case either someone wins or it is an exact tie (in which case other procedures are needed). The beauty of IRV is then the Bird voters could have marked Stevens as their second choice and once Bird had been eliminated in round 1, the Bird votes would have counted for the second choice (probably Stevens) and Stevens would have won. In Florida in 2000, if the Nader voters had been able to make a second choice, probably most would have chosen Al Gore, and then he would have won Florida. The value of IRV is that the voter gets to express a true preference without throwing the election to a totally unacceptable candidate. In Florida, the current system benefited the Republicans; in Alaska this year it benefited the Democrats. But IRV eliminates this kind of effect altogether.

Minnesota News

The Great Minnesota Recount began yesterday in the hotly contested Senate race between Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Democrat Al Franken. With 18% of the vote recounted, Coleman's lead has shrunk from 215 votes to 174 votes. In addition, the Franken campaign won a major court battle when a judge ordered Ramsey County officials to turn over the names and addresses of voters whose absentee ballots were rejected. A key part of the Franken strategy to make sure every vote counts, including absentee ballots that were rejected for minor technical reasons, in some cases caused by clerical errors made by county employees. On the whole, Minnesota election law is fairly liberal and basically says that if the intent of the voter can be determined, the vote counts, even if there are small technical errors such as Zipcode missing on absentee ballots. The Franken campaign will undoubtedly try to use this ruling to get similar rulings in other counties. The Coleman campaign says that ballots that do not conform to exactly what the law prescribes must be rejected.

Waxman Beats Dingell in Round 1

Old bull John Dingell (82) lost a key vote yesterday to young upstart Henry Waxman (69) for the chairmanship of the House energy committee as the Democratic steering committee voted for Waxman 25-22. However, the full Democratic caucus will vote on the recommendation today and could reverse the decision. Dingell, who is from Michigan, is seen by many House members as autocratic and a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors. In contrast, Waxman, who is from California, is much more in tune with the environmental movement. This battle has clear generational overtones with older members who have lots of seniority and think committee chairmanships should be awarded to the most senior committee member for Dingell. Younger members with little seniority supporting Waxman's pitch that merit, not seniority, should be the determining factor. If people like Waxman, with a mere 34 years seniority, can upset guys like Dingell, who has been around since Methuselah was in short pants, it could really upset the applecart and this could spread to other committees in the coming decades.

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