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Eight House Races Still Too Close to Call

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm Madeleine Brand and this is DAY TO DAY.

As we've been discussing, Democrats will control the House of Representatives in the next Congress. But by what margin? Well that all depends on the results of 10 congressional seats which are still up in the air.

NPR's Mike Pesca joins me now to talk about those 10 seats. And Mike I can't believe this election is not over by now. Ten races are still being contested?

MIKE PESCA: That's right. Ten races - 20 candidates who want the opportunity to one day become lame ducks, as Ron Elving was talking about. Now two of the races are going to a run-off, because in a couple of states - Louisiana and Texas among them - the candidate, to win, has to get the majority of votes, whereas in almost all the other states you have to just get the most votes. So we're going to see a run-off in two places, but then there's the recounting that's going to be going on.

BRAND: And so that's eight races with recounts. How close are they?

PESCA: In some cases it's just a few hundred votes separating candidates. Let's look at Connecticut. Fewer than 200 votes separate the Democratic challenger, Joe Courtney from the incumbent Republican Rob Simmons - that dynamic there where it's a Democratic challenger who is ahead and the Republican incumbent's challenging - that's the only place - Connecticut's the only place where that's happening.

In Georgia, a Republican is challenging a Democrat, but it's the Democrat who's the incumbent. Everywhere else across the country - Democratic challenger is trying to gain more votes because right now they're trailing the Republican incumbent.

BRAND: Ok. So tell us some of the other headlines here.

PESCA: First, we have my favorite, which is Ohio. They have great priorities there, in my opinion, because they have two really close races and provisional ballots. They could start counting them on Saturday, only they won't be counting them on Saturday, because that's the day of the big Ohio State-Michigan game - and let's not get in the way of that game.

BRAND: Let's not. Yes.

PESCA: No.

BRAND: And so, you mentioned provisional ballots - this is all coming down to provisional ballots?

PESCA: Yeah, well, two parts. OK, first, in some states they're coming down to provisional ballots. In some states they are counting the ballots that they already have. What is a provisional ballot? Different from an absentee ballot. An absentee ballot is oh, I know I'm not going to be there so I'll send it in.

A provisional ballot is you show up at a polling place and hey, we don't have your name on the list or oh, shouldn't you be at the firehouse down the street. Anyway, we'll let you fill this out and if it all checks out we'll count your vote. But the provisional ballots don't always count. And they're the last ones to be counted. And so in a lot of states, it is coming down to provisional ballots.

But one place I want to talk about is in Florida - the 13th - where it's coming down to an issue of touch screen voting.

BRAND: Florida, huh? That sounds very, very familiar.

PESCA: Yeah. In fact, the 13th Congressional seat, the Democrat is trailing -her name is Christine Jennings - she trails Vern Buchanan. And a lot of people told Christine Jennings, hey I went to vote for you and there was a problem with the machine. And they crunched some numbers and it turns out that in Sarasota County, which has touch screen voting machines, 13 percent of the people who showed up wound up not voting for the Congress race.

Now why was that, people wanted to know. Was it just that they didn't want to vote? They compared Sarasota County - like I said, has a touch screen machines - with the county next door, Manatee County, which has the paper ballots. Only two percent of the people in Manatee County didn't vote in the Congress race. And two percent, or two-and-a-half percent didn't vote for the Congressional race via absentee ballots. So right now Christine Jennings is saying there could be a problem with the touch screen machines.

BRAND: OK, Mike. The best detail of that is, that is Katherine Harris's old seat.

PESCA: Katherine Harris, the secretary of the state of Florida, famously oversaw the election in 2000. I think that's what you call irony.

BRAND: Ok. NPR's Mike Pesca thank you.

PESCA: You're welcome.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.
Madeleine Brand
Madeleine Brand is the host of NPR’s newest and fastest-growing daily show, Day to Day. She conducts interviews with newsmakers (Iraqi politicians, US senators), entertainment figures (Bernardo Bertolluci, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Gervais), and the everyday people affected by the news (an autoworker laid off at GM, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq).
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