Midterm election polls open in United States

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

An updated version of this story including results and projected results is available as 2006 U.S. Congressional Elections

With the polls now open throughout most of the United States (US), voters are reporting long lines as US citizens line up to vote in the 2006 United States general elections, frequently referred to informally in the US as the "2006 midterm election". Predictions of an unusually high level of voter turnout seem to be coming to fruition as voters throughout the country report longer than expected lines. One voter from Kansas City, Missouri reported a 90-minute wait, while voters in southwest Michigan reported that they had to park several blocks from the polls because of the crowds. Typically, fewer than 40% of registered voters go to the polls during non-presidential election years. The highest midterm voter turnout on record occurred in 1970, when 47% of registered voters went to the polls.

Wikipedia Learn more about election irregularities in the 2006 United States general elections on Wikipedia.

Electronic voting gets mixed reviews

A third of the states are using electronic voting systems for the first time. Although it was predicted that the electronic systems would be more efficient, reports are mixed about their effectiveness. Air America Radio reports that electronic voting machines in Delaware County, Indiana and Cleveland, Ohio have malfunctioned, frustrating voters and election workers. A report published on the USA Today website said election workers in some parts of Florida had resorted to using paper ballots when their electronic voting machines failed to work. National Public Radio reported that some electronic voting machines in Texas had to be turned off when they improperly gave votes to candidates not selected by voters. Problems were also reported in Maine, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

A voting problem of a different type was reported in Kentucky, where a Louisville poll worker is alleged to have physically assaulted a voter. Jefferson County clerk spokesperson Paula McCraney said that the voter wanted to press charges after being allegedly choked and pushed by the election worker. No information was available on what led to the incident.

Congressional control at stake

All seats in the House of Representatives and one-third of the seats in the Senate are up for election. Polls on the eve of the election indicated that the Democrats were likely to take control of the House, with several estimates giving the party a gain of about 30 seats. In the Senate, where the Democrats need six seats to gain a majority, the outcome is less certain. At least five races are considered too close to call.

As of Wed Nov  8 01:24 EST 2006

U.S. Senate
Party           2006     2004    Change
Republicans     49       55      -3
Democrats       46       44      +3
Other           2        1       +1

U.S. House
Party           2006     2004    Change
Republicans     184      232     -24
Democrats       223      202     +24
Other           0        1       -1

"Six year itch"

Many political pundits expect Democratic gains during this election. Control of Congress has frequently changed hands during midterm elections held during a president's second term. This trend coincides with recent polls that show Americans becoming further disillusioned with Republican control in the wake of growing discontentment about the Iraq War and a wave of scandals ranging from the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal to revelations about sexual improprieties involving Republican Congressman Mark Foley and White House confidant Ted Haggard. Many conservative evangelical Christians, the GOP's most reliable voting block, have become disappointed by the scandals and may not vote in great numbers. Pat Buchanan, whose campaigns have often appealed to that voting block, told ABC News, "There's the spending orgy, the arrogance of power . . . . The war in Iraq, failure to protect our border, hurting the working class in Ohio, for example, the list goes on and on. We're more dissatisfied with the Republican Party than we've ever been."

Campaigns turn nasty

Political advertisements turned nasty in the closing days of the campaign, with candidates from both parties turning up the heat on their opponents. MSNBC reported that the FBI was investigating calls made to voters in Virginia in an apparent attempt to intimidate and confuse voters. This follows a similar investigation in California, where staff in Republican Congressional candidate Tan D. Nguyen's campaign office sent letters to Latino voters telling them that "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time." (Naturalized citizens are allowed to vote in elections.)

Candidates in both New York and Michigan reported that automated telephone calls had been made to voters in the dead of night, purporting to be from their campaigns. The candidates said their campaigns had nothing to do with the calls, and had been made fraudulently in an attempt to make voters angry at them.

It was unclear whether these calls were related to other calls, financed by the National Republican Congressional Committee, that had been made to voters in several states in the previous week. Those calls had generated complaints by voters from both parties who said they were repeated several times in the same day. In at least one state, the calls were pulled when the attorney general notified the NRCC that the calls violated state law.

A different kind of "robocall" was reported in Iowa, where three Democratic candidates for the state House reported that they had been the target of anonymous attack ad calls. The calls inaccurately claimed that the candidates support free health care and college tuition for illegal aliens.

In Nevada, Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Jim Gibbons referred to his opponent, Dina Titus, as "Dina Taxes".

The negative campaigning even worked its way into local, non-partisan races. In Genesee County, Michigan registered voters received automated telephone calls accusing a candidate for probate judge of arson and fraud.

Sources

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