Eminent domain and paper ballots

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The Silver City Daily Press will have stories in today’s edition dealing with two hot-button issues: eminent domain and paper ballot systems.

Earlier this week, I requested a precinct-by-precinct breakdown of the Grant County election returns. When I began to review the numbers yesterday, I noticed something peculiar: the early vote tallies did not come close to the 4,702 early votes reported by the clerk’s office on Monday. In fact, they were off by about 3,000 votes.

I contacted Grant County Clerk Howie Morales, whose staff was already conducting a canvass of the election. After reviewing my data, they determined that the electronic reports generated by their new election returns software were not showing early voting numbers for Silver City.

Several hours later I found myself in the clerk’s office, discussing the problem with Morales and his staff. Using the paper tapes printed by the tabulation machines, they had found that almost 3,300 votes had not been reported on Tuesday. The votes had been recorded by the machines, and were on the paper tapes. The only glitch came in the software system used to report the results on election night.

Morales told me that his staff knew something was fishy with the numbers, and because they were midway through the canvass (they rely on the paper tapes to complete the canvass) they would have found the problem eventually.

I see the situation as a vindication for those who called for a paper trail when voters cast ballots.

The second story, written and researched by Jim Owen, is likely the beginning of our coverage of eminent domain in Grant County. Several property owners are selling their land to the state to make way for a road project, and at least one owner is upset. That’s all I’ll mention here — buy a copy of today’s Silver City Daily Press to read the whole thing.

Afternoon Update

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It looks like there are still several thousand (3,700?) votes remaining to be counted in the CD-1 race between Heather Wilson and Patricia Madrid. As I write this, Wilson maintains a 1,000-vote lead over Madrid. We may be waiting until the end of the week for a final canvas.

Nationally, it looks like Jim Webb will eek out a 7,000 lead in Virginia, which is a huge number of votes to overcome should Allen seek a recount. Some conservatives are now calling on George Allen to call it quits.

Off to a community-relations meeting at Western New Mexico University, but I’ll have the latest in a few hours.

Wednesday morning update

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So, none of the races here in Grant County were affected by anything overnight (for more on those races, check here).

Regionally, it looks like Al Kissling pulled in 40 percent of the vote against Steve Pearce, a remarkable number considering Kissling’s lack of funding and political experience. He performed better than Gary King did in 2004, and that’s saying something.

Up north, it looks like we’ll be waiting until at least this afternoon to see the outcome of the CD-1 race between Heather Wilson and Patricia Madrid. Right now, with more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, Wilson holds a .4 percent lead over Madrid. Several thousand absentee ballots likely won’t be counted until later today.

Overall, however, it was an incredible election for Democrats. As I type this, the NY Times is reporting 27 pickups in the U.S. House and four in the SenateMissouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. There are still 14 undecided house races, some of which will see a recount and others that will require a runoff. For the Senate, all eyes are on Virginia and Montana. It’s likely that Jim Webb and Jon Tester will pick up those seats for Democrats. If that happens, both houses of Congress would see a switch from Republican control.

Also, looks like Democrats were able to make additional gains in governor’s mansions, and in state legislatures as well:

The wave of voter discontent that put Democrats in charge of the U.S. House of Representatives also hit state legislatures, where the party won control of more chambers than Republicans.

Democrats picked up control of at least nine chambers in Tuesday’s election, winning the House and Senate in Iowa and New Hampshire, the House in Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Indiana, and the Wisconsin Senate, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“The Democrats have won pretty much across the board,” said Tim Storey, an elections analyst at the nonpartisan group.

More later!

Defense Secretary: Rummy out, Lieberman in?

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Read Spencer Ackerman, who has been dead on for predictions tonight:

David Gergen just speculated on CNN that Donald Rumsfeld will “fall on his sword,” meaning he’ll submit his twice-rejected resignation. Bush, of course, has pledged that Rumsfeld is his man. The only situation I can see whereby Rumsfeld is out at the Pentagon is if Claire McCaskill and Jim Webb win, giving the Senate to a 51-seat Democratic majority. At that point — faced with a Democratic congress, endless investigations, subpeonas, document requests, the whole megilla — it makes sense for Bush to reluctantly accept Rumsfeld’s resignation and appoint Joe Lieberman as defense secretary. Bush will yield huge plaudits from ignorant pundits and deliver the Senate, once Republican Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell appoints a GOPer to Lieberman’s seat, back to the Republicans, thanks to Vice’s tie-breaker vote. Meanwhile, an unwinnable war will grind on.

More coming…