Feb. 27 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Senate Dem 58   GOP 41   Ties 1
House Dem 257   GOP 178  

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News from the Votemaster

D.C. Voting Bill Passes the Senate

The Senate passed a bill yesterday that expands the House of Representatives from 435 members to 437 members. The House has been expanded many times in the past as states entered the union, so that by itself is not unusual. What is unusual is that one of the seats is given to the District of Columbia and the other to the state that came closest to getting an extra seat in the 2000 census, which is Utah. It is virtually guaranteed that the representative from D.C. will be a black Democrat (stronger yet, it will almost assuredly be Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is currently a nonvoting liaison from D.C. to Congress). The new Utah representative is very likely to be a white Mormon Republican. This is a compromise a few Republicans can live with. In fact, six of them voted for the bill.

However, the bill also contains a provision eliminating D.C.'s tough gun laws. The House version of the bill will not contain this provision because the Democratic majority is much larger in the House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi frankly doesn't care what the Republicans think of the bill. When the House bill is passed, probably next week, the two will have to be reconciled in conference.

A consequence of the bill is that Utah gets one more electoral vote but since D.C. already has electoral votes (3) it does not get any more. In fact, the 23rd amendment to the constitution limits D.C. 3 electoral votes, no matter what its population is. Thus the electoral college will be expanded from 538 to 539 members, meaning that we won't have to explain what happens in case of a tie any more. Of course, it could happen that a minor candidate wins one of the small states and gets 3 electoral votes with the Democrat and Republican each getting 268. But the constitution says to win you need more than half the electoral votes, so the election still gets thrown into the House.

Representation for D.C. in the Senate would seem to require full statehood, something Republicans will never allow if they can help it. However, if the Democrats can pick up a couple of additional Senate seats in 2010 and hit 60, Congress could shrink D.C. to cover just the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court buildings and make the rest a new state.

Another option is retrocession, that is, giving the land back to Maryland, where it came from. Virginia got its piece back in 1847.

With any option, it might be necessary to repeal the 23rd amendment at the same time (otherwise the President and his wife get 3 electoral votes). But such repeal would be fairly easy.

A lawsuit over this bill is likely although it is not clear who would have standing to sue. Conceivably it could be a governor who felt his state's representation in the House had been illegally diluted by the presence of a representative not from any state. It is doubtful that a Democratic governor would sue since the extra seat for Utah is only until the next census at which time the normal rules apply for allocating seats and the beneficiary of the extra seat might be a blue state. The representative from D.C. will be a Democrat until Hell freezes over, and what with global warming, that event is not expected in the coming decade.

Coleman Wins a Round in Minnesota

Former senator Norm Coleman (R) finally got a ruling that favors him from the three-judge panel overing the Minnesota Senate election contest. Yesterday they ordered the inspection of 1500 rejected absentee ballots, to see if any of them were legal. Many of the votes come from counties Al Franken (D) carried, but from Coleman's point of view, in order to erase Franken's 225-vote lead, it is essential that more votes be counted, no matter where they come from. If no new votes are counted (or already-counted votes disqualified), then Franken wins.

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-- The Votemaster

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