Jan. 01 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Senate Dem 58   GOP 41   Ties 1
House Dem 257   GOP 178  

Map of the 2010 Senate Races
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strong Dem Strong Dem (57)
weak Dem Weak Dem (0)
barely Dem Barely Dem (1)
tied Exactly tied (1)
barely GOP Barely GOP (5)
weak GOP Weak GOP (1)
strong GOP Strong GOP (35)
Map algorithm explained
Senate polls today: (None) RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): (None) GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA

PW logo Democrats Likely to Bypass Conference on Health Care Bill Romney Book Tour Will Hit Key Primary States
Congressional Primary Calendar Job Losses May Have Eased
Democrats Ramp Up for Redistricting Brennan Hits Back at Cheney

News from the Votemaster

Happy 2009 Everyone

The map has been changed to reflect the 2010 Senate race (using the 2004 election as the baseline). Since the software can handle only one Senate race per state, we have declared Chuck Schumer the winner in New York (99.99% certain anyway) and will just follow the special election for Hillary Clinton's replacement. If you want to see the final 2008 map, just click on "Previous report" above. All the pages and data going back to May 24, 2004 will continue to be online indefinitely to be a resource to graduate students in political science and wannabe graduate students in political science. The site is still being updated daily, but after the Minnesota race is settled (or Hell freezes over or Spring arrives, whichever happens first), the update frequency will drop to perhaps once a week or so, depending on the amount of news about the 2010 and 2012 elections. Then as we get closer to the midterm election, the update frequency will pick up again.

Coleman Tries New Tactic in Minnesota

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), now behind by 49 votes with all votes counted except about 1350 improperly rejected absentee ballots, has been trying a variety of tactics to see if he can somehow save his job. First he based his argument on precincts where the recount showed fewer votes than the original count, claiming there must have been a double count the first time around (dismissing the obvious possibility that the poll workers lost some ballots after they were counted). Then his emphasis was on not counting some of the 1350 absentee ballots that county officials say were incorrectly rejected. Now Coleman has appealed to the state supreme court to count additional (carefully selected) absentee ballots. It is not known what the court will do. Hopefully it will not make another catastrophic blunder as it did when it gave the campaigns a right to reject ballots they didn't like. The court now has an opportunity to correct its original error and instruct the canvassing board to count every legal vote and tell the candidates to butt out. Having the candidates involved in the counting process (predictably) does not make matters go more smoothly. Is this the messiest Senate race in history? Not yet, but we're not done yet by a longshot.

Burris' Chances Remain Unclear

Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D) may be a crook, but he is also a brilliant political strategist. His choice of a black man, former state attorney general Roland Burris, to replace Barack Obama in the Senate has had precisely the effect it was intended to have: to rev up identity politics and get black politicians, like Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), strongly supporting his choice simply because Burris is black. However, other black politicians, including Illinois secretary of state Jesse White, have opposed the appointment. White's signature is required to make the appointment official and White is refusing to sign. Burris has gone to the Illinois state supreme court to force White to sign.

Even if the court rules for Burris, White could still refuse to sign (and it is not clear what would happen then). However, this story could get a lot more complicated. For starters, the constitution explicitly gives each chamber of Congress the authority to determine its own membership. Nevertheless, in 1969, in Powell v. McCormack, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the House had to seat corrupt congressman Adam Clayton Powell because he had just won an election, even though the House voted not to seat him. This was one of those cases, like Marbury v. Madison, that change the balance of power between the branches of government. (In Marbury, the court declared a law unconstitutional, a power nowhere to be found in the constitution. If Congress and the President had said: "Nice try guys, but you don't have the power to nullify laws" the court would probably not have tried again.) In the Powell case, the House could have just refused to seat Powell anyway, perhaps sending the court a curt note saying: "Seating House members is none of your business." There is nothing the court could have done about it and probably wouldn't have tried again.

In the case of Burris, there is one difference that might matter. Powell, for all his faults, was duly reelected even after all his corruption became public. One could make the case that if the people of Harlem wanted a powerful (albeit corrupt) congressman, that was their good right. However, in the Burris case, we are talking about an appointment, not an election. To make the point sharper, suppose Blagojevich was more tech-savvy than he probably is and had openly auctioned off the seat on eBay and somebody won it and paid him for it and then Blagojevich appointed the winner. Would the Senate have the authority to refuse to seat the appointee? Blagojevich might later go to prison for selling the seat, but there would be no question that he was the lawful governor at the time of the appointment. If one accepts the reasoning that the Senate would have the power to reject such an appointee, then what about a case in which the Senate believes the seat was bought or the governor otherwise unduly influenced? The key question is whether the Senate has this authority. If the Supreme Court ultimately rules for Burris and the Senate refuses to seat him anyway, this would become a momentous case and restore some of the legislative branch's wilting power.

Another option would be for the Senate to seat him and then expel him. The problem with that is that expulsion requires a 2/3 majority, so the Republicans would have to cooperate. Minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is keeping his powder dry so far and hasn't expressed an opinion. It is not clear whether the Republicans would vote to expel Burris. In the Republican caucus, the following arguments would be made against expulsion. (1) "Guys, we're not doing very well with minority voters as you may have noticed. This is our chance to support a black guy while the Democrats are opposing him. Support Burris and we win back North Carolina." (2) Burris is as old as McCain and not very well known. In 2010 he will either retire--in which case we get an open seat--or run anyway, in which case we get a weak (black!) opponent. Now Illinois has a history of electing black people to the Senate, but a black opponent will still be weaker than a white opponent, even in a blue state." If you don't think that discussion would take place, you are charmingly naive.

Still another possibility--and this requires the Democrats to be really bold, something they have a lot of trouble being--is to reject Burris, court decision or no court decision, and then to go full-steam ahead to admit the District of Columbia to the union as the 51st state. Given the demographics of D.C. it is a virtual certainty that both new senators and the new representative would be black Democrats. The Democrats' slogan could be "No taxation without representation," a blast from the past that the Republicans would have a hard time answering. The true reason for opposing this ("we don't want any more Democrats in Congress") could easily be morphed into "we don't want any more blacks in Congress." Racial politics at its finest would be on display. Admitting new states does not require a constitutional amendment, just an act of Congress, as happened when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted in the late 1950s.

More on Burris here.

Y2K Bug Finally Shows Up

The much awaited Y2K bug, which was expected to cause the end of the world, finally made a cameo appearance as thousands of Microsoft Zune devices spontaneously shut down yesterday as the clock struck midnight. The political fallout? As people come to realize that all software is full of bugs (studies show that 1 bug per 1000 lines of code is the best anyone can hope for) it makes people more suspicious of all software, especially secret software in voting machines. As an aside, thanks to your help, the transparent voting systems idea finished first in the Technology category at change.org. The top three ideas in this category were:

      - Transparent voting systems
      - Create a more interactive government
      - Nudge the U.S. towards the metric system

There will be a runoff among these starting Jan. 5. Be sure to visit and vote.

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