Today's column is in three parts. The first two are updates on the Missouri presidential election results and the Alaskan Senate election results, and then a quick rundown of some of the state-level ballot initiatives you may have missed out on... what with all the other election excitement this year.
First, though, I got tired of endlessly downloading various "election results" webpages, in the hopes of getting some final results. And I also got tired of waiting for the mainstream media to do its job and inform the public what is going on with the remaining states, whose election results have not yet been reported. So I called up the state election officials myself, and thought I would share with you what I found.
I started this process last Friday, and you can read what is going on with Minnesota's Senate race in my previous column. There are three other big races left to call, and six more House races (which I did not have time to cover, sorry). The first is Georgia, which will be holding a runoff election between the top two vote-getters on December 2nd. Incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss won a clear plurality of the vote, but under Georgia law you are required to get a majority vote to win -- in other words, 50% plus one vote. Chambliss fell just short of this. He will be the favorite in the runoff election, making an upset win by his challenger (Democrat Jim Martin) a long shot at best. The big unanswered question is whether Barack Obama will aid Martin in the runoff election campaign (John McCain has already promised to help Chambliss).
But while the Georgia situation was widely reported a few days after the election, we have had a virtual news blackout on what is going on in the other two states we're waiting for -- Missouri's presidential results, and Alaska's senatorial results.
Here is what I managed to find out.
Missouri is the only state which has not been "called" for John McCain and Barack Obama. Come on Missouri, "show me" the votes! [OK, I apologize. I just couldn't resist saying that...] Figures from the Missouri Secretary of State's office show McCain with a lead of 4,969 votes, out of a total of over 2.9 million votes cast (a difference of a mere 0.17%).
The state still has a few hundred absentee votes to count, as well as about 6,300 provisional ballots to verify. So, theoretically, if all the provisional ballots were legitimate and they voted overwhelmingly for Obama, he could still win the state. But it has to be considered an extreme long shot. Especially since not all of the provisional ballots will wind up being authenticated (this is normal in any election). So while Missouri remains up in the air officially, Obama supporters shouldn't get their hopes up too far for snagging Missouri's 11 electoral votes. Looks like Obama may just have to settle for only (and I say that with tongue firmly in cheek) 365 total electoral votes -- a razor-thin (ahem) 95 more electoral votes than he needed to win. Instead of 106.
We should know for certain by the middle of next week. As Laura Egerdal, Communications Director for Missouri's Secretary of State put it, "We'll find out on November 18th." That is the date when all the counting will be complete, by state law. While Missouri has no automatic-recount law for close elections, either candidate could formally request a recount after the date when the results are certified (December 9th). But since Missouri's status cannot change the overall outcome of the presidential election, it is likely that no such recount will take place.
Alaska's Senate race between Ted Stevens and Mark Begich is still up in the air as well. Currently, figures on the official Alaskan Division of Elections website show Stevens with a 3,257 vote lead, out of 221,713 votes cast (a difference of 1.47%). But there are media reports claiming tens of thousands of mail-in ballots (absentee and early voting) and provisional ballots, which are yet to be counted (estimates range as high as 70,000 to over 80,000). Alaska's vote should be verified by November 14th, and certified on December 1st, but they are trying to get some sort of public announcement out by this Wednesday, so watch for that.
A recount in Alaska is possible, but the rules are fairly strict. The only automatic recount in Alaskan law would happen if there was an exact tie. Otherwise, one of the candidates must request a recount, and state their basis for asking (some sort of justifiable reason that mistakes had been made). If the vote is within 0.5% then the state pays for such a recount, but if not, then the requesting candidate must put up a deposit to cover the recount's cost -- which is only refunded if their claim of mistakes made proves to be valid. So while this still doesn't give us much new information on the actual state of the race, it at least clears up the process involved.
Other election odds and ends
While California's gay marriage ban got a lot of coverage in the media, there were other ballot initiatives across America which you may have missed. Here are just a few of the other laws which passed (or failed to pass) this election:
Michigan became the 13th state to allow medical marijuana, by a stunningly-large margin of 63% in favor to 37% opposed -- which has to have set some sort of record for a medical marijuana vote margin. This can be interpreted as: medical marijuana is becoming more and more mainstream in American society. One-fourth of all American states have now approved the concept. President Obama should take the lead on this issue, and push to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II dangerous controlled substance (instead of Schedule I) -- which would mean federal law would no longer stand in the way of these state-level experiments, and would end DEA raids of terminally-ill cancer patients and federal harassment of doctors who prescribe marijuana.
Massachusetts became the 13th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for anyone (sick or not), again by a whoppingly-large margin of 65% to 35%. This could build support for Congressman Barney Frank's proposal to change federal law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana on federal property.
Massachusetts also banned dog (greyhound) racing, and rejected a libertarian measure to end the state's income tax.
Washington state voted 58% to 42% in favor of physician-assisted suicide, becoming only the second state in the nation to do so (following its neighbor to the south, Oregon).
Missouri voted overwhelmingly for English as the official state language, but Oregon rejected a measure to limit bilingual education. Colorado strongly voted (73% to 27%) to reject redefining legal "personhood" back to the moment of fertilization. South Dakota rejected a draconian anti-abortion law as well, although it was a lot closer (55% to 45%).
And while California got most of the news exposure, Florida and Arizona also voted to ban gay marriage. Arkansas banned any unmarried cohabitating couples (gay or straight) from adopting or fostering a child.
And, a disappointment to many, San Francisco did not vote to name its new sewage plant after George W. Bush.
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
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