Tags: Hot | Races | Buoy | Turnout | Close | Vote

Hot Races Buoy Turnout in Close Vote

Tuesday, 05 November 2002 12:00 AM

A handful of close races - nine for the Senate and fewer than 20 for the House - will determine control of the U.S. Congress until the next presidential election in 2004.

A few incumbents are in competitive races as a result of redistricting. Democrats needed a net gain of six seats to take back the House for the first time since the GOP landslide of 1994.

Texas Secretary of State Gwyn Shea forecast that 5 million Texans will go to the polls. This would be a 40 percent turnout rate, surpassing the 32.4 percent in Texas' last midterm election in 1998. Early voting has been 2 percent ahead of four years ago in the state's 15 most populous counties.

Long lines were reported at many Minnesota precincts, especially in Ramsey County where Republican Senate candidate Norm Coleman was mayor of St. Paul.

At 7:30 a.m., Mondale arrived at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Minneapolis to vote but had to wait for 25 minutes. The former vice president received a smattering of applause and a few chuckles when an election judge asked, "What's your name?"

Coleman voted at Linwood Recreation Center in St. Paul about 8:30 a.m. after waiting for about 30 minutes.

"I voted for me, and I think Laurie (his wife) voted for me," Coleman said. "And if we win by two, we will have put us over the top."

It could be a long night before a winner is declared. Minnesotans used a hand counted paper ballot in the Senate race.

Snow showers in the upper Midwest were not expected to keep voters from going to the polls but powerful thunderstorms and heavy rain could hold down turnout in southern Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and southern Alabama.

Rain spread across the Ohio Valley into northern Illinois but it was chilly and dry in most of the Northeast. Weather was clearing in Texas and Florida was expected to remain dry.

Changes in the voting system in Florida and several states could cause problems.

Election officials in Broward County, Fla. completed a 588-item checklist before opening the polls and federal observers were sent to 14 states to prevent delays and chaos. They were joined by monitors from the Miami-Dade State's Attorney's Office, a U.S. House delegation, the NAACP, People for the American Way and European-based observers who monitored elections in Serbia and Montenegro.

CNN hired nearly 1,000 poll watchers to call in the vote and conduct exit polling at key precincts and the major television networks, wary of repeating past mistakes in the first general election since 2000, may be slower to declare winners.

Turnout, expected to be low even for midterm elections, may affect the speed of the vote count as well as determine winners and losers.

Curtis Gans, director of the committee for the Study of the American Electorate, estimated as many as 5 million votes of the projected 70 million to 75 million cast may be uncounted by midnight. The winner of the last presidential election was not decided until the U.S. Supreme Court halted a south Florida recount 36 days after the election.

A Pew Research Center survey showed local politics, not national issues such as Iraq, terrorism and even the foundering economy, are on the minds of voters.

While Republicans battled to buck a historical trend of the party in the White House losing congressional seats in off-presidential-year elections, Democrats were poised to pick up governorships in Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Hawaii governor's race was a statistical tie between two female candidates, Democrat Mazie Hirono and Republican Linda Lingle.

Voting wasn't easy for Indiana Congresswoman Julia Carson. A pin broke on the voting machine she was using, rendering it unable to record a vote for her. Elections officials said only one other voter had used that booth and only four others were required to use paper ballots. The problem was fixed within 10 minutes.

In New Hampshire, Secretary of State William Gardner's office reported turnout was "heavy" in a number of communities by mid-morning, including the state's largest city, Manchester. Voters apparently were energized by the tight U.S. Senate race between Republican Rep. John E. Sununu and Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. The outcome could play a major role in which party controls the U.S. Senate.

In Massachusetts, turnout was also reported heavy. Secretary of State William Galvin has predicted a possible record turnout of about 70 percent.

The weather for Election Day in New England was sunny with temperatures in the 40s, excellent conditions to get out the vote.

Washington state GOP leaders considered going to court if a delay in mailing out absentee ballots to thousands of King County voters has an effect on the outcome of some local races.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer said Tuesday that some voters, including military personnel overseas, were still waiting for their ballots to show up Monday.

"If we lose a (King County) legislative race by a very small margin - by 100 votes or less - I'm going to court," Chris Vance, state Republican Party chairman, told the P-I. "I don't think there was a plot. I think it's gross incompetence."

King County Executive Ron Sims blamed the late mailing date on a court order directing that a change be made in the ballot measure on the proposed Seattle Monorail Authority.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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A handful of close races - nine for the Senate and fewer than 20 for the House - will determine control of the U.S. Congress until the next presidential election in 2004. A few incumbents are in competitive races as a result of redistricting. Democrats needed a net gain of...
Tuesday, 05 November 2002 12:00 AM
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