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Loose ends in the House

From NBC's Doug Adams
By NBC's count, the Democrats currently hold a 232-198 edge in the House, with five races still undecided. All are Republican-held seats. Here's the latest on all the undecided races (two of which we should hear about by the end of today):

New Mexico's 1st district. Rep. Heather Wilson (R) holds about an 875-vote edge over challenger Patricia Madrid (D). Madrid has been steadily picking up votes since beginning the canvass down by over 1,100 votes. Republicans last night again claimed victory, saying Wilson's lead appeared safe. They appear to be correct. Election workers are finishing up counting provisional ballots today, and final results should be announced tonight, according to Bernalillo County officials.

North Carolina's 8th district. Going into today, GOP Rep. Robin Hayes led Democratic challenger Larry Kissell by 450 votes. Final election results will be announced this afternoon. Election officials from the 10 counties stretching from Charlotte to Fayetteville are meeting today to double-check results and count provisional ballots. There are about 1,500 provisionals to be counted across the 10 counties. Yesterday, lawyers for Hayes asked officials to throw out most of the provisionals, saying they were illegally cast. Under North Carolina law, after the vote is certified today, challengers have one business day (i.e. Monday) to request a machine recount, which would be completed within 48 hours. Kissell, a schoolteacher whose grassroots campaign ran much closer than expected, said he does intend to seek a recount.

Ohio's 2nd district. This one could get interesting, and we may not know the answer for another two weeks. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) leads Democratic challenger Victoria Wulsin by 2,865 votes. But more than 9,700 votes are still uncounted -- 1,500 absentee ballots and more than 8,200 provisionals. Counting will begin on Monday in the three counties just east of Cincinnati that make up this district. Based on past elections, 25% to 35% of provisions can be expected to be disqualified. Final counting must be completed by November 28. If the margin shrinks to less than .05% (about 1,200 votes), it will trigger an automatic recount under Ohio law. Vote-counting could have started tomorrow, but county officials decided to let workers have the weekend off to watch the Ohio State-Michigan football game.

Ohio's 15th district. Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) leads Democratic challenger Mary Jo Kilroy by 3,536 votes. But nearly 20,000 absentee and provisional ballots are still uncounted in this district that includes Columbus and its western suburbs. The high number of provisional ballots cast stems from confusion over a new voter ID requirement that led to a lawsuit last week. Final results will be released November 27, according to Franklin County officials. Kilroy is optimistic that she can make up the lost ground. Her campaign has been airing TV and radio ads urging voters who cast provisionals to contact election boards to make sure they've provided proper documentation so their ballots will count. Kilroy's campaign says the majority of the provisional ballots stem from voter ID confusion at the polls, and they argue that transient voters tend to favor Democrats.

Florida's 13th district. A hand recount of votes began yesterday in this Sarasota area district formerly represented by Katherine Harris (R), who lost her US Senate bid. In this open-seat race, Republican Vern Buchanan leads Democrat Christine Jennings by just under 400 votes. Buchanan has claimed victory but Jennings refuses to concede. Both candidates were in Washington this week participating in new member orientation. Final recount vote totals are to be submitted to the state by today at 5:00 pm ET, and a final tally released on Monday.

But the real issue is not the recount results -- it's allegations of electronic voting machine problems in Sarasota County, the largest county (and the most Democratic) in the district. The machines reported that more than 18,000 people -- one in eight voters -- undervoted. That is, they made choices in other races, but not in the congressional race. The Sarasota undervote rate is significantly higher than other counties. Possible reasons range from a computer glitch, to voter disgust with the intensely negative campaign. Some electronic voting experts also argue that the county's ballot design made it easy to overlook the congressional race, which was on a different screen than the governor and US Senate races. Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb has ordered an audit of the Sarasota voting machines, and both sides are in court arguing about the details.

In addition to the above five seats -- there are two runoffs scheduled for early December: 1) in Texas' 23rd district, currently held by Rep. Henry Bonilla (R). The exact date hasn't been sit but it will be no sooner than Dec. 12th. And 2) in Louisiana's 2nd district, where Rep. William Jefferson (D) will face a fellow Democrat in a runoff on December 9 (so, that seat will stay in Democratic hands).