General Question

dalepetrie's avatar

95 official, 3 unofficial, 2 undecided, what if?

Asked by dalepetrie (18009points) November 18th, 2008

OK, got your attention. I’m talking about the US Senate. The 111th Congress convenes on January 6, 2009, just 51 days from now. And at this time, only 95 of the Senators are known for certain.

In Illinois, a successor for President Elect Barack Obama has to be named, and in all likelihood 51 days is plenty of time for this to happen.

In Delaware a similar situation exists, where Vice President elect Joe Biden still needs to resign his seat and be replaced, but again with 51 days, this is unlikley to be a problem.

Third unofficial seat is Alaska where all but 2,500 votes have now been counted, and Mark Begich holds a 3,724 vote lead (or 1.1%) over convicted Felon Ted Stevens. Begich has declared victory, but Stevens has not yet conceded, the vote will not be certified until the week of December 1, and Stevens has 5 days from that point to request a recount, albeit at his own expense as the result is not within half a percentage point. Until Stevens concedes, it’s not technically over.

Fourth we have Georgia where Saxby Chamblis received more votes than Democratic challenger Jim Martin, but did not receive over 50% of the vote, which means by state law there will be a runoff election on December 2. No one can really say how this one will go, the best analysis I’ve seen is that it really depends on how energized the voters are and how good the get out the vote machine is. This one could end up being close, taking a lot of time to count, and then being within the margin for a recount, one which wouldn’t even start until a couple weeks before the next Congress is seated. There could easily be no clear winner by 1/6/09 here.

The fifth one is my home state of Minnesota, where the final tally today was Coleman ahead of Franken by 215 votes. But most are saying that Franken will probably prevail in the recount, the Secretary of State says it will be mid-December before the recount is completed, and that is if there aren’t any lawsuits, which judging by how litigious both sides have been over the last 2 weeks is highly unlikely. That means we also may not know by 1/6/09 who will be representing Minnesota.

Which brings me to my question. If for any reason whatsoever in any one of these 5 cases, but particularly in the last 3, we don’t have an undisputed victor by 1/6/09, what happens to that seat? Does it sit vacant until the victor claims it? Does the incumbent fill it? Does the person who was ahead in the last count fill it? Do the candidates share it?

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21 Answers

fireside's avatar

I can just see Coleman and Franken with one cheek each on the seat, lol.

I would imagine that each seat would sit empty because the departing Senator’s term limit are up. Wouldn’t it take some sort of special act or motion to waive the term limits in the case of a recount?

Neither candidate would yet have a mandate to fill the seat.

girlofscience's avatar

What else would you be talking about? I knew this was about the Senate upon seeing the question.

ok, i’m going to read the description now

SoapChef's avatar

dalepetrie Whoa! You have turned my world upside down! You should be the one answering this question, not asking it.

galileogirl's avatar

I heard on Countdown that AP has called Begich in Alaska. Evidently he is ahead by over 3,000 with about 2500 ballots left to be counted. Those votes like other early votes are expected to increase Begich’s lead to the point that if Stevens wants a recount he will have to pay for it. He may be a nasty old coot but I don’t think he is crazy. Would he pay 10’s of thousands to try and win a Senate seat at 85 when he would be forced out anyway even if he won? And under Alaska law his ouster would not mean a Republican replacement because they will have a special election that Begich has a good chance of winning.

In MN it is 50/50 for Franken, with less than a 400 vote difference and a hand count could easily go either way.

And with a special election instead of a recount in GA, the Obama organization is already working to get out the vote. I think there will be fewer Rep voters for a one issue election, especially with Chambliss’ sleazy behavior towrd Cleland being advertised. The GA Dems are still excited by their almost victory and a lot of Reps won’t have the stoach for a fight.

I think the Dems will take AK and GA and they have a good shot at MN

dalepetrie's avatar

galileogirl -

re the recount, it would only cost $15,000, Stevens could afford it, but it’s not so much about whether he’d pony up the dough, the Republicans might, knowing he’d be expelled, just to keep the Dems from getting to 60.

re Georgia, I agree about the Obama organization, but w/ Dems at 58 and conventional wisdom being Minnesota goes blue, how many Repubs will be motivated to get out for no other reason than to keep Dems from getting to 60. Latest polling shows Chamblis up 49 to 46 w/ 5% undecided (same result as the election). Basically I see GA as the longshot of the 3.

re Minnesota, the difference is actually only 215 and though it’s true a hand recount could go either way, but essentially I’ve read several sources explaining why historical voting patterns put Franken as the favorite, www.fivethirtyeight.com has done an outstanding job of tracking these sources:

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/dartmouth-study-minnesota-undervotes.html
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/minnesota-recount-number-of.html
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/more-minnesota-madness.html
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/frankens-odds-of-winning-recount-may-be.html

For those who don’t want to read, essentially the issue is, you’ve got a certain percentage of ballots which register as no vote in the Senate race…in some cases it really is no vote, but historically, when they analyze other recounts and audits of machine totals, they can come up with a percentage where a vote was cast, just not in a way that the machine could read (for example, instead of filling in the circle, they checked it). They also have data that shows that undervotes tend to favor the Democratic candidate, something that is attributed by and large to first time voters who don’t understand what they are supposed to do, the lions share of which are Democrats, particularly in this cycle.

I guess I don’t look at AK as being controversial because whether Stevens requests a recount or not (regardless of who pays for it), 1.1% is too much to overcome in a recount, and according to all accounts, the Alaska vote counting system is pretty reliable. Begich wins, could be undecided on 1/6, but he wins, every media outlet has called it, there’s really no controversy here. Minnesota, right now the buy price on Intrade is 62.5, every analysis I’ve read says this favors Franken, I’m about 90% confident in this one. The real tossup as I see it is Georgia, because if 62% of the people think Franken is going to win, and Begich has won, when voters go to the polls in Georgia, Republicans might well feel that this is their one chance to salvage something, ANYTHING from this election. I’d say this one favors Chamblis 51/49.

fireside's avatar

I was just reading a short article on fivethirtyeight.com.

“Silver correctly predicted that Barack Obama would win the popular vote over John McCain, 52 percent to 46 percent; he also called 49 of the 50 states’ results correctly.”

girlofscience's avatar

@fireside: The only one incorrectly called was Indiana, right?

EmpressPixie's avatar

@girl: Yep, it was light pink up until the election. But just barely so.

girlofscience's avatar

@dalepetrie: Why does Fluther, of all websites, have the privilege of receiving your political knowledge? I would think that you would benefit more from such discussions on political message boards, in which there would be more people who had enough knowledge to intelligent contribute. (Don’t get me wrong; I’m certainly not complaining.)

dalepetrie's avatar

girlofscience – because Fluther rocks. I was spending my time at another Q&A board, but I realized that there it was all about the money, they didn’t care about having a community, they didn’t care about keeping a tone of civility, they simply wanted to drive new members in all the time and push their products to everyone. A big shakeup over there opened my eyes, a bunch of us came over here, and I found I really, really liked it. The people over here were more aligned with my personal philosophical and ideological bent. For a little bit I divided my time between the two sites, then I experienced first hand the incompetence of the management of the other site when I got into an irreconcilable conflict with another user and sought the assistance of the moderators, so I moved over here full time. Then after being here for a while, I encountered another irreconcilable conflict with a user over here, and the approach of the mods here compared to the approach of the mods where I was couldn’t have been more different. In short, here I feel like part of a community which is overseen by people who do what they do out of passion, and not just a desire to line their pockets, people who actually care about building a site where people will want to spend their time. That’s why Fluther has the privelege of my political knowledge, because I don’t see it as their privelege to have me, I see it as my privelege to be allowed a place to be myself.

dalepetrie's avatar

Oh, and FYI, still no indications of Stevens having conceeded, but the only reference I found about a recount was that he stated he’d call for a recount if it were within .5%, and it’s 1.2% off with pretty much no chance of it moving to within that margin. So, I’d say this one is over.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

my .02…John Carney to take Biden’s seat

dalepetrie's avatar

I honestly have no idea who’s taking Biden’s seat. It almost seems like he’s going to keep it himself until the 20th when the new governor is sworn in. Conventional wisdom is they’re looking for someone who will not run in 2010 so Beau Biden can step in once he’s back from Iraq.

dalepetrie's avatar

For anyone interested in the answer to the question I posted, though this article leaves me with perhaps more questions than answers, I think it does a pretty good job of answering the question I asked…funny how I just found that 12 hours after I posted this question!

http://www.minnpost.com/ericblack/2008/11/19/4702/what_if_the_coleman-franken_contest_ends_up_on_the_senate_floor

dalepetrie's avatar

Ted Stevens has conceded. One more down.

girlofscience's avatar

@DALEPETRIE: SWEEEEET.

If you had to put money on it, how many would you guess? 58, 59, or 60????????

fireside's avatar

I really didn’t see what else he was going to do.
Fight to win just to have Congress toss him out?

girlofscience's avatar

@fireside: It’s just nice that it’s officially over, even if we knew the consequence would be the same!

dalepetrie's avatar

If I had to put money on it, I’d go 59, because I’d like to think we’ll get to 60, and I’m far more confident in Minnesota than in Georgia, but I have reasons to be confident both places and reason to be doubtful both places, so it’s probably the safest bet. And also, I have a hard time seeing 58, I’d give overwhelming odds to picking up at LEAST one of those two, and if I were going to lose the bet, I’d be far happier to lose if I picked 59 and it turned out to be 60 than I would be if I picked 60 and only got 59. I’m going to say it’s probably a bell curve at this point, 59 being the most likely, and 58 and 60 both being one standard deviation from the mean.

girlofscience's avatar

@dalepetrie: Great answer! Thanks!

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