Counting votes, before and after the election

One report projects a Democatic victory in the House. Another warns of the risk of widespread voting problems.

Published October 25, 2006 5:53PM (EDT)

We're not about to start measuring drapes -- this is a War Room, damn it -- but professors from Dartmouth, Columbia and Temple say Democrats have reason to be optimistic about their prospects in November.

We won't pretend to understand how the professors reached their conclusions; they lost us somewhere between "regression equation" and the part where they started talking about "435 random draws of district level predictions conditional on the 2006 national shock (from [a]) plus district-level characteristics and shocks based on a regression model from the 2004 election." But their bottom line is one we can comprehend: Based on current generic ballot polls, they're forecasting "an expected Democratic gain of 32 seats," with a Democratic gain of at least 18 seats "a near certainty."

The Democrats need to pick up 15 seats to take back the House.

Now, neither poll results nor scholarly extrapolations therefrom have ever given anyone a pass to the Capitol's members-only elevators. We've still got to get through the not-insignificant step of holding the elections and counting the votes. And that's where another new report comes into play. The nonpartisan Election Reform Information Project says that Nov. 7 "promises to bring more of what voters have come to expect since the 2000 elections: a divided body politic, an election system in flux, and the possibility -- if not certainty -- of problems at polls nationwide."

The report warns that "machine failures, database delays and foul-ups, inconsistent procedures, new rules and new equipment" could lead to chaos at the polls. Ten states to watch closely? The report names Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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