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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Presidential race not over in Missouri

Since Election Day, Obama has gained almost 1,000 votes statewide, most of it from St. Louis County.

The presidential contest is still not over in Missouri, even if President-elect Barack Obama is already sizing up the White House.

In fact, the vote count in Missouri is tightening.

Republican John McCain's statewide lead has shrunk to fewer than 5,000 votes, as various counties have recounted and revised their totals from last Tuesday's election.

County election officials have recovered almost 3,200 additional votes in the last few days. Most of them came from various electronic voting machines where the votes had apparently not been tallied by polling place workers during the initial collection of votes.

Missouri remains the only state where it's officially unclear which candidate carried the state. And it may take another two or three weeks before a winner is declared.

McCain's latest lead is 4,968 votes, out of more than 2.9 million cast.

Yet to be counted: an estimated 7,000 provisional ballots — most cast in Obama-leaning areas — that are just now being examined to determine which ones were cast by properly registered voters in the correct polling place.

Counties have another week to verify and certify their official counts, which will include the approved provisional ballots.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan then has two weeks to certify the state results. Only then can any recounts be sought.

In St. Louis County, the newly discovered additional votes have particularly affected the close 1st District state Senate contest between Republican Jim Lembke and Democrat Joan Barry.

Lembke's lead, for now, stands at 119 votes, more than double his margin on election night. Both candidates are waiting for the final tally before deciding whether to seek a recount.

According to Carnahan's latest figures, St. Charles County had the highest percentage voter turnout in the state: 77.2 percent.

The rankings could change, though, since Carnahan's figures don't match those provided by some counties and may need to be revised.

St. Charles County, for example, has said that its Nov. 4 turnout was just above 85 percent.

St. Louis County is reporting a final turnout of 78.4 percent and the city of St. Louis reported its turnout at 71.6 percent. In both cases, Carnahan's office has set the turnout slightly lower.

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