Tuesday, Sept. 12, 8 p.m.

Potomac Confidential: Election Special

Marc Fisher
Washington Post Metro Columnist
Tuesday, September 12, 2006; 8:00 PM

Welcome to Election Night on Potomac Confidential, as we checked in on the big mayoral primary race and other election results over the course of the night.

A transcript follows.

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. What a day. No results yet, but lots to chew over as we consider the impact of today's voting mess in Montgomery County. Voting hours have been extended to 9 p.m. in MoCo, so if you were unsuccessful in your effort to vote there this morning, there's still time to hurry out and cast your ballot.

We are expecting to get some meaningful results in the District in the 9 p.m. hour, but Maryland results will likely be delayed, at least in Montgomery and Baltimore city. I'll be with you through 8:30, and again at 9 p.m. and every hour through the evening as this unusual Election Night progresses.

Come ahead with your questions and comments, and please let us hear about your experiences at the polls today, good or bad.

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Bethesda, Md.: This morning in Bethesda my precinct didn't have the cards necessary to use the electronic voting machines, so we had to fill out applications and submit provisional ballots? Was this widespread across Montgomery County? Did the cards finally reach the polling places, and at what time?

Marc Fisher: The cards were sent out starting after 6 a.m., after elections officials realized their error. Some polling places got the cards in time to open at 7 a.m., some didn't get rolling at full strength for a couple of hours.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: I was effectively disenfranchised today. I've just been to the polls for the second time in Chevy Chase and they wouldn't let me vote. I am very angry and cannot understand how this can happen. Given the amount of taxes I pay to this county, it's a disgrace. Heads need to roll for this.

Marc Fisher: Why wouldn't they let you vote this evening? Were you recorded as having voted this morning?

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Bethesda, Md.: In forty years of voting, I have never been denied a ballot before today. Like thousands of others, we were turned away from the polls this morning due to the lack of electronic cards. We waited at Bethesda Elementary School for the cards which were "on their way" but never materialized, only to have to leave for work. They had already run out of provisional ballots.

We are not looking forward to the scrum of voters tonight, especially if hours are not extended. Won't this severely disadvantage Montgomery County candidates running statewide?

Marc Fisher: That's exactly the fear that Doug Gansler (attorney general), Peter Franchot (comptroller) and Senate candidate Ben Cardin (even though he's from Baltimore) have -- they were counting on big margins in Montgomery and they fear that many of those who were turned away this morning won't return tonight. It's a legitimate fear and it's not clear that one hour of extra polling time makes up for what happened. On the other hand, what other remedy would be more fair?

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Voting Problems: Marc, you're a smart guy, I'm wondering what you think of this...I have an idea for fixing our voting methods, but I can't get anyone to listen. We already have the technology to do this, so I don't understand why we can't. Here's how it should work: A voter makes his/her selections electronically, and then the machine counts the votes and prints out a paper receipt that is coded (either bar codes or scantron type). The paper receipt is then inserted into another machine, which counts the votes again. At the end of the day, the electronic votes have to match the scanned paper votes. Obviously different companies have to control the two different machines, and if we need to recount, we have all of the paper votes available. (And they don't have chads!)

Clearly, of course, the government would need to pour a lot of money into getting enough machines to each district, but you'd only need one of the scanning machines for each voting location. And it seems like it'd be worth the money to make sure that our voting system is reliable, given that we're supposed to be setting an example for the rest of the world.

Marc Fisher: Your suggestion has merit, but in the end, the details of the counting and verification systems are not as important as being certain that Election Day runs smoothly and in a transparent fashion. We all learned in 2000 that while we want every vote to be counted, there is always going to be a bit of blur around the edges of a vote count. This is not a 100 percent verifiable process. What's most essential is that there be public trust in the process, and that is accomplished only by making the process open to all--lots of witnesses from all campaigns--and by making sure the day runs smoothly. That's where MoCo fell down today.

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Stanton Park, D.C.: How was turnout in the District? When I went to vote around 9 a.m., my precinct was unusually quiet. Who would low turnout hurt?

Marc Fisher: We have been hearing all day in both the District and Maryland that turnout is light. But take that with a small pile of salt because midday predictions about turnout often turn out to be way off the mark. Light turnout generally favors incumbents and favorites. Challengers such as Scott Bolden in the D.C. council at large race or Donna Edwards in the Al Wynn congressional race in Maryland need a big turnout.

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Silver Spring, Md.: As a Republican who didn't need to vote today (I live in horrid District 18 so I had no primary to worry about), I can't help but find some enjoyment in today's voting fiasco.

I know I'm supposed to feel bad that one basic American right was put at risk today, but it's mainly Democrats it affected, and it was with a system that we have warned for some time was prone to flaws.

I wonder if Democrat activists will now take a serious look at the electronic voting in our state and realize there's a problem.

Again, I know I'm SUPPOSED to feel bad but I really can't.

Marc Fisher: Ah, the milk of human kindness. Well, your schadenfreude is rescued a bit by your plea for this to be seen as reason for a policy change, but still, no one should celebrate when any fellow citizen is disenfranchised.

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Anonymous: I'd just like to comment on something. Today, I voted in Washington, D.C. It felt good to participate in democracy until I realized that NOT ONE of the people for whom I voted for Senator, Representative, and Delegate, has a vote in Congress. This country is preaching to so many countries to embrace democracy, yet right here in D.C., we are truly disenfranchised. Taxation without representation. An Iraqi with an ink-stained thumb has more of a say in his/her federal government than we do here in D.C. It's not right.

Marc Fisher: It's not right at all. In fact, it is a dark stain on our democracy. It's simply unjustifiable to accept federal taxes from D.C. residents and send D.C. kids off to war when the city's residents have no recourse to appeal to Congress on the basic issues in their lives.

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Washington, D.C.: Where can you see the D.C. Primary Election results?

Marc Fisher: No returns as yet--we're hoping to see some in the 9 p.m. hour, and if you'd like to follow along, you can check www.dcboee.org through the evening.

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D.C. Native: Marc,

Quick question about your Cropp column from the other day. I agreed with everything in it, but isn't it slightly unfair to bad mouth a particular candidate in a column without also at least discussing the other candidates (whether you support them or pointing out their flaws)? Seemed like one of those despicable 527c ads that attack a candidate without adding anything positive to the discussion. Love the column. Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Cropp's Familiar Refrain (Post, Sept. 7, 2006)

Marc Fisher: Thanks very much. I've written several columns and numerous blog items on the mayoral race and have over time written on almost all of the candidates, so in the limited space of one column, I don't see the need to check in on all the opponents of whomever I'm focusing on that day.

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D.C.: How is the Post able to effectively cover the election given the number of reporters and editors who were eliminated in the newspaper's buyout?

Marc Fisher: While we did sadly say farewell to several dozen of our colleagues earlier this year, I don't think there's been any reduction in the number of reporters and editors we have covering today's election or politics and government in general. The paper has reassigned other people and made some hires to pick up many of the beats that were covered by those who accepted the buyouts.

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Washington, D.C.: This was my first time voting in DC -- why are we not asked for identification when we get our ballots? I only had to give my name and sign -- it seems difficult to control voter fraud when voters are not asked to provide a driver's license, voter registration card or some other form of ID.

Marc Fisher: It is rather amazing after all the country has been through on the voting security front that when you and I went to vote in Washington today, no one asked us for any ID of any kind. In fact, I could easily have named any one of my neighbors and voted as many times as I wanted to. That's a sharp contrast from Maryland, where voters today for the first time faced much tougher ID checks.

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Rockville, Md.: I voted about 11:30 am at Julius West Middle School in Rockville. I entered a darkened school with NO signage pointing me to the voting location. I had to roam the halls to find the room to vote. There was only one person checking in voters. There was no line at the time, but with only one person I suspect lines will form. I was asked to verbalize by name, date of birth and home address for anyone standing nearby to overhear. After I voted there was nobody to give my card back to. Finally a woman approached me and took it from me, but I wonder how many just went in the trash or in pockets. Additionally, for the past five days, including today, I have been spammed with electronic phone calls. Two from Ben Cardin's camp alone today. Any thoughts on how to get my phone number removed from the calling banks?

Nancy Wood

Marc Fisher: I don't think you'd have much luck getting your name off the phone lists--by the time you got off one, you'd be on several others. And political candidates, unfortunately, are exempted from the federal Do Not Call program. Only pressure from voters will change this. I for one make it a policy not to vote for candidates who engage in robocalling.

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Washington, D.C.: Marc, is there a URL/Web address - page specific - for results in the Maryland elections today? I've been hunting around the Board of Elections Web site (it leaves a lot to be desired, to say the least), and they don't appear to have anything set up that will take you to a results page as they come in.

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Results

Maryland Results

Marc Fisher: There you go--but it will likely be a long wait for Maryland results, at least from Montgomery and probably statewide too. Might have better luck in Prince George's.

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Washington, D.C.: (Note: this question has been submitted prior to having the election results.)

Assuming that Fenty wins the primary, will you continue to bring awareness to the Sinclair Skinner issue and pressure Fenty to not appoint him to a prominent position in the administration? Unfortunately, the only recourse is through the press at this point.

Marc Fisher: I certainly would want to keep a close eye on that as a test case of a Mayor Fenty's approach to political appointments and as an indicator of his judgment of character. See www.dumpskinner.com for details of this controversy.

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D.C.: In the mayoral race in D.C., do you think that the media tried to pick the top two candidates as front-runners, or were Fenty and Cropp just polling far ahead of everyone in the first few polls, then the stories started to run that way? I always wonder about this in big elections with more than two candidates. It's a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg question.

Marc Fisher: Well, sure, there is some chicken and egg to that question, but the bottom line is that political reporters rely on whatever metrics are available to decide how to focus their reporting, and the metrics that are out there during a campaign are polling results, fundraising totals, anecdotal interviews with voters, interviews with political strategists and our sense of the organizational effectiveness of the various campaigns. In every one of those measures, the Cropp and Fenty campaigns were clearly well ahead of the other candidates from early on straight through to the end. To ignore that would be to miss the story. Nonetheless, we have an obligation to present voters with stories on other candidates and we did, with extensive profiles as well as coverage of their campaigning.

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Washington, D.C.: I would be interested to know who you think will run for mayor in 2010/2014 (I know it's a ways away) in either of two scenarios: Fenty is a successful mayor or Fenty is a terrible mayor.

Marc Fisher: Man, how time flies.

2014 already?

Wow.

Ok, I'll play. Whether or not a Mayor Fenty were to bomb out, watch for council members Jack Evans, David Catania and Vincent Gray to look toward the mayor's office. If Scott Bolden wins tonight, it's easy to imagine him wanting to move on up. And if Robert Bobb becomes the next school board president and has any success at all in that job, he'd be a natural candidate as well.

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SWDC: Just a comment for the person in D.C. whose ID wasn't checked.

I voted this morning in D.C. too, and I had to present identification. So it looks as though enforcement is not uniform in D.C.

Marc Fisher: And truth be told, little is consistent in a system that relies entirely on volunteers and very poorly paid poll workers, many of them quite elderly and ill versed in the voting technology. At my polling station this morning, the woman taking down names of voters was extremely hard of hearing and did not respond at all to questions from four different voters.

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Reston, Va.: Hi Marc -- any word on Jamie Raskin's Maryland State Senate race in Takoma Park/Silver Spring?

Marc Fisher: Not yet, but that's one we'll be watching closely tonight--the American University law professor's challenge of longtime state Sen. Ida Ruben is one of the tightest races of the night and could produce one of the few ousters of an incumbent. I'll keep you up to date on it as the numbers come in later.

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Mount Vernon Square, D.C.: "I for one make it a policy not to vote for candidates who engage in robocalling."

Then who do you vote for? Over the last week, I think I've heard from every candidate for mayor, and both several candidates, often more than once. Do you vote for the one who calls you the least?

Marc Fisher: I've been blessedly free of robocalls this go-round. Maybe it's just that my answering machine is way less than reliable these days.

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Silver Spring, Md.: In this modern world, a 13-consecutive hour window to vote feels antiquated and far too short. I often am required to travel out of state at a moment's notice and today was no different. Luckily the extension in MoCo actually helped me vote as I returned from Detroit with an hour plus to spare. What limits us to one day? Constitution? Seems like it would help turnout substantially to open to multi-day.

Marc Fisher: Or at least 24 hours. There's an argument to be made for online voting, but I think the social aspect of having citizens physically go to a voting place has enormous meaning.

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Marc Fisher: I have to shift over to Post Radio for a bit and then check on the returns--I'll rejoin you at 9 and pick up with some of your questions. Keep 'em coming.

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Marc Fisher: Welcome back--still no numbers coming in from either Maryland or the District, but we'll be optimistic and hope for some returns at least from Washington in the coming minutes. Adrian Fenty just appeared before supporters at his headquarters in the District and the Post's Linton Weeks reports that the crowd erupted in cheers of "Fenty, Fenty" as the council member walked through the room. He's not saying anything quite yet, but he's looking confident.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Who is in charge of the Board of Elections in Montgomery County? I believe heads need to roll on this fiasco.

Marc Fisher: The head of the Montgomery Board of Elections is Nancy Dacek, a former member of the County Council from upcounty and a progressive Republican who was appointed to this job by Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Marc, Any news on if Rushern Baker has upset Jack Johnson in Prince Georges? This news is quite anticipated. Are a percentage of precincts reporting yet?

Marc Fisher: I just checked the Prince George's elections board and no numbers yet.

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University Park, Md.: My young adult son, voting for the first time in person instead of by absentee ballot in a primary, was distressed to be turned away from the University Park Elementary School voting site at 7:10 this morning because the lists of registered voters hadn't turned up. He went to his job in Gaithersburg, for which he was late due to the Beltway accident rubbernecking, it will be difficult for him to commit the three hours of travel time to get back to UPES and vote and go back to work. He was basically disenfranchised in a Prince George's primary where the outcome virtually governs the election, all because the person bringing the lists was a half an hour late. The Board of Elections has known the primary date for months. There's no excuse for not getting those materials to the sites the night before if they can't trust their staff to get out of bed sufficiently early.

Marc Fisher: That's a most unfortunate story. People keep asking me what they and we can do to prevent such fiascos in the future and other than hoping and pressing for elected officials to appoint better managers to run the elections, there is one thing anyone can do: Volunteer to work the polls at your local polling place. Don't just assume that someone will do it, because as many of you saw today, some of those folks just don't show up and other probably shouldn't show up. If you're involved enough to be upset by what's happened, you should be able to consider devoting one day of your life to helping assure a smooth election for everyone.

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Washington, D.C.: What about changing our voting day? My dry cleaner - from Mongolia - was surprised that I had to go to work today. In Mongolia, Election Day is a national holiday, and its on Saturday!

How about doing at least one of those here in the United States?

I'm always amazed at how little we do to drive up voter participation here where we are supposed be such grand backers of democracy (oh wait, D.C. doesn't have true democracy, never mind!)

Marc Fisher: Weekend voting is a great idea and it works well in many countries. There are logistical issues--many polling places are in schools that are normally locked tight on weekends or in churches that are in heavy use on weekends. And inevitably some folks would whine about interfering with the day of rest, no matter which weekend day you picked. But there's no doubt that turnout would improve.

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Who the winner!: Marc, look into your crystal ball and tell us who won!

Marc Fisher: I asked readers that question today on the big blog and you can check out your fellow voters' predictions at washingtonpost.com/rawfisher

I'll announce the winners of that contest as soon as we get final results tomorrow.

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Kensington, Md.: I voted at Kensington-Parkwood Elementary School today along with my daughter and neither one of us got a receipt for our vote. Why? What record do we have of our vote?

Marc Fisher: I don't know of any local jurisdiction that gives out receipts for voting. But the voter roll you sign at the polling station is a public document and you should be able to examine it anytime you wish. In addition, you can check at any local board of elections and see which elections you--or anyone who know--has voted in. That's all public record, except of course who you voted for.

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Anxiously Awaiting: If provisional (written) ballots are cast, are they tallied right away or after the polls are closed?

Marc Fisher: The elections board says the provisional ballots--the paper ballots that were handed out to many voters who were not able to use a machine today--will not be counted tonight, but rather in the coming days. So any results that are very close at the end of tonight cannot be considered final until those provisionals are counted by hand.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I was able to vote in Mont. Co. without problem around 7:30 p.m. but read with horror the accounts of early morning voters. Please tell me that those responsible for this screw up will be publicly identified and fired. This is a "heckuva job" Brownie level of incompetence, and, although the consequences are fortunately not so disastrous, at another level something very important has been lost.

Marc Fisher: The state board of elections has already asked the state attorney general to look into who was responsible for the mess and to recommend a course of action from here.

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Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst in Rockville, Md.: Some of my acquaintances are so angry about the voting mess-ups in MoCo that they're saying it was a conspiracy. My husband says that we should never ascribe to malice what can be attributed to stupidity (don't know original quote source). What do you think? Was this just a colossal case of incompetence? Or... actually, I don't even want to think about the alternative.

Marc Fisher: I'm with your husband. There's no evidence of any foul play here, and as so often is the case in politics, human error and poor planning generally accounts for vastly more bad news than any evil intent.

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Rockville, Md.: I called the Montgomery Board of Elections (240-777-8500) to suggest that they put on staff to count the provisional ballots today rather than wait until Monday. That would make it appear the Board cares. The Voter Service rep said that the law requires a waiting period, absentees are counted first, etc. My Q: Can't the Board go to the judge and get an OK to count the provisional votes that are marked "other" as if they were paper ballots, and count ASAP? That would help restore voter confidence a bit.

Marc Fisher: There's the question of the law and then on top of that there's the more pressing issue of manpower. Elections boards tend to be very small offices; after all, for most of the year, there's not a lot of heavy lifting. That's why elections depend so heavily on volunteers and short-term employees. Maryland has 1900 polling places but far, far fewer elections workers, so the whole system rests on the capacity of the elections board to recruit and train the people who actually run those polling places.

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Capitol Hill: Marc,

I'm sick and tired of all these people that think the only important thing going on in D.C. are elections. When are your chats going to touch on the fact that we have baseball in D.C. now?

Marc Fisher: Ha! The game's just getting under way. So what do you think: Which will come first, the end of tonight's contest in Arizona or the final returns on today's vote?

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Washington, D.C.: Why didn't the Post endorse in the D.C. Board of Education races. Education is the number one issue for many voters and no matter who is Mayor and who is on the new Council, the Board of Education will have a profound affect on our schools.

Marc Fisher: No Post endorsement in the Board of Education races because they are not on today's ballot. The school board in the District is a nonpartisan office and as such the elections are held with the general election in November. Our coverage of those races in the news pages--and our editorial board's endorsements on their page--will come later in the fall.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I must say that I wonder why I'm paying so much in taxes in Montgomery County. First, I am irritated that we still don't get paper records with the electronic machines and, now this morning, I was one of those handed a provisional ballot. Not to mention the fact that the polling judges basically announced mine and everyone's political affiliation at the polling place. And, now to hear that some Marylanders were told to come back and vote?!

This is one crucial, fundamental right in America -- the right to vote. If there is one area of government that should be efficient, well-run, uncorrupted and as professional as possible, it should be the area that handles elections.

Why don't we hear about glitches in government/county systems that keep track of collecting money for parking tickets or moving violations?

Marc Fisher: Probably because those offices are year-round, fully staffed operations, while elections are, as I said above, one-shots heavily dependent on temporary labor. But if you're of a certain political inclination, you might argue that the parking tickets and red light camera functions are run more efficiently because they've been outsourced to private companies. In the District, at least, that argument doesn't hold water, because the government-run moving violations operation is every bit as ruthlessly efficient as the privately-run red light and speeding camera enforcement.

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No comparison: News Channel (number withheld) is trying to compare Ida Ruben to William Donald Schaefer. Common! There is no comparison. Ida is sensible and while she may be somewhat "old school", she is an effective leader.

Marc Fisher: Well, they are both longtime veterans of public office and both are being criticized for being past their prime. And both face really serious challenges tonight.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I wish I could agree with you about the MoCo voting disaster being the result of error as opposed to conspiracy. But the theft of the 2000 presidential election and the ruthless disenfranchisement of voters in Florida and Ohio in 2004 taught me that the modern Republican Party simply cannot be trusted to hold an honest election.

The head of the MoCo Board of Elections is a Republican appointed by Gov. Ehrlich. The legacy of 2000 and 2004 is this: huge numbers of American no longer trust the Republican Party to hold an honest election.

Marc Fisher: Ah, but the elections board is one of last bastions of bipartisanship in our system and it is generally a rigorously enforced, even split of duties and supervisory functions. I've watched Nancy Dacek in Montgomery work with the Democrats on the board of elections and theirs is a close and generally effective relationship.

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VA interloper weighs in...: Marc, at the polling place I was working at today for Mark Panetta, voters who got paper ballots got a little tear off section from the top of their ballots. Maybe that's the receipt the earlier poster was referring to? Most voters just threw it away, along with the mountain of campaign lit they collected on the way in.

Marc Fisher: Yes, you do get to keep the tear-off portion of your paper ballot, and it does have an identifying number at the top of it. It's not as clearly a receipt as the District used to provide some years back and from my observation, almost everyone tosses it in the trash on the way out.

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Columbia Heights, D.C.: Do you think Marie Johns has a chance to break double digits? If the number of people I heard from who wanted to vote for her did, I'd be surprised if she didn't.

Marc Fisher: She was showing at just under 10 percent in the most recent polls and I've not seen anything that makes me think that's off by any significant degree.

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Sensible?: There ain't nothing sensible about that hair!

Marc Fisher: Ida Ruben has the best hair in the Maryland legislature, bar none. I can certainly respect those who believe it would be wrong to let that hair disappear from the halls of power in Annapolis.

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Now, wait a *&#@ minute: You stated that you would announce the winner of your blog poll tomorrow but two chat answers later, you state that paper ballots would be counted in the coming days. Therefore, the winners won't be known until all ballots are counted. Ergo, you can't pick a blog winner tomorrow! What's up with that?

Marc Fisher: You may be right. It depends on how close the results are after the machine-counted votes are in. In the event of races that are too close to call, the winners of the prediction contest will have to wait till the paper ballots are counted. Sorry.

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Eastern Market: How worried should we be about the Sinclair Skinner issue with Fenty? Can he really influence policy that much?

Marc Fisher: Depends on what kind of position Fenty would give Skinner. I would hope that any mayor who has such a controversial staffer on his campaign would see how divisive it would be to include that person in a position of importance. Whatever decision Fenty would make would be highly revealing of the kind of quality he would seek on his mayoral staff.

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U Street: Any word in the news room on the Rhode Island Senate primary? That one could have a big impact nationally.

Marc Fisher: I just checked the Rhode Island board of elections and no numbers are in as yet.

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Washington, D.C.: Where are the Linda Cropp and Adrian Fenty victory parties?

And why did Linda Cropp run such a lackluster campaign?

Marc Fisher: Cropp's party is at the Capital Hilton on 16th Street NW and Fenty's party is at his campaign headquarters on Florida Avenue NW.

If Cropp loses, it will be in large part because she failed to give voters a positive sense of where she wanted to take the city. She devoted so much of her time to tearing down Fenty that the only take home message about herself was that she is experienced--the adult in the race. But that only raised further questions about why the city is in the condition it's in after her 26 years in office. She never made the sale that she had a different vision and the ability to bring it to fruition.

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washingtonpost.com: P.G. County Results

P.G. County exec results

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Mark in Adams Morgan: The polls have been closed for 47 minutes and no results. Any idea when they'll start rolling in?

Marc Fisher: The city has been telling us they expect to see numbers start coming in around now. Nothing quite yet, but we are now seeing the very first numbers from Maryland--just a handful of precincts, so nothing in any way useful as yet.

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Marc Fisher: I'll be offline for about 15 minutes to collect some info and will be back with you by the top of the hour. Stay tuned--there are lots of questions and comments in the queue and I welcome your additions.

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Alexandria, Va.: Did anyone foresee that Montgomery Co. could have had a problem today?

Marc Fisher: So far, there's no indication that anyone had any forewarning of a problem. Elections officials say they learned of the problem about an hour before polls opened and they rushed to get the missing authorization cards out to the polls immediately. Given the size of the county and morning traffic, some polling places got the cards in time to open at 7 and others had to punt, using paper ballots for a couple of hours.

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Fort Washington, Md.: Can he really do it? I see the early returns and Rushern Baker is up slightly -- do you think he can pull the upset and why or why not?

Marc Fisher: The first few precincts are in from Prince George's and they show challenger Rushern Baker with a slight lead over county executive Jack Johnson. But these are very, very slim returns--don't count on them holding up. Still, Baker does seem to have emerged as a serious challenger in the past week and the endorsement by former county executive Curry was a big boost.

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Glenn Dale (PG), Md.: A Silver Spring, Republican told you "I can't help but find some enjoyment in today's voting fiasco..." and went on to blame the Democrats. Perhaps that's unfair if the director of MoCo elections is a Republican appointee of Governor Ehrlich.

Marc Fisher: Oh, I've got comments here from folks blaming every which party. Here, you want one blaming the Dems? Here goes...

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Bethesda, Md.: As a registered Republican in liberal Montgomery County, I find humor in the fact that the polls are not working. If it was a 50-50 county, I could only imagine what the leftist conspiracy theory pundits would be saying today. Democrats from Ted Kennedy to Nancy Pelosi would be blaming it on the Republicans and how "we use scare tactics to keep voters away." Well, the joke is on you Dems. You guys cant even blame George Bush for this one...but I'm sure you'll find a way. Hilarious.

Marc Fisher: Now, on to some more timely questions--by the way, still no numbers from the District, but some of the campaign staffers are giving us a look at the few precincts where they were able to get tallies, and the Fenty campaign is touting a couple of precincts where they show almost twice the votes that Cropp received. Is that an indicator of things to come? Who knows.

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Washington, D.C.: Marc,

Because Marylanders cannot run an election, they should not have any voting voice in the House or Senate.

Give D.C. voting representation now.

Marc Fisher: You read my mind -- or maybe you read my column appearing in tomorrow's paper.

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Northwest D.C.: I work for Montgomery County, and in past years I've been involved with voting machine support at different precincts. I'm sorry to say that the system has had problems for years; it was a fiasco just waiting to happen. Technical flaws aside, the precinct judges, mostly old-timers, simply have not absorbed the training in the procedures needed to use the new voting machines, even after several go-rounds, and as a tech support person I usually wasn't trained in the procedures either.

Someone should have checked for the cards long before this morning rolled around; there are two layers of double-checking that failed in order to create this fiasco. Sad, sad, sad.

I'm just glad I wasn't working support this time around. If this leads them to scrap the infernal Diebold system it will be a great thing.

Marc Fisher: It's all about the training. Think about your own observations of poll workers and then think about the complexity of the new voting technologies. Does that equation compute?

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Northwest D.C.: It has been almost two hours since the polls closed in D.C. When can we expect results? This seems like quite a long wait.

Marc Fisher: This is pretty much par for the course in the District. Usually DC numbers start rolling in around 9:30 or 10, so we're still within range.

It's the Maryland numbers that are unusually late tonight.

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Takoma Park, Md.: I just left my voting place in Takoma Park at 9:45 p.m. They ran out of Democratic provisional ballots and ran out of provisional forms and envelopes. We were told to write our candidates on scrap paper and put them in a white envelope from CVS.

Marc Fisher: You have got to be kidding. That's appalling. I'll ask our reporters on the story to check it out.

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The Hill: Hey Marc, thanks for hanging out with us tonight. Any idea who was leading the polls in the race for D.C. Council Chair?

Marc Fisher: The strategists for the candidates in other races have been saying for some weeks that Gray has it, that Patterson couldn't get enough of the black vote to beat him. But then this past week, there were some indications from polling by candidates that the race had tightened and that Patterson was in a virtual tie with Gray. So I would expect it to be close and to be very much dependent on who turns out and where.

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Kingman Park : Tell the truth, Fisher. The reason you won't have the results of your blog poll tonight is that you forgot the cards to make the voting machines work.

Marc Fisher: You found me out. Dang.

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Silver Spring, Md.: "If you're involved enough to be upset by what's happened, you should be able to consider devoting one day of your life to helping assure a smooth election for everyone."

I totally agree. I had this epiphany at my polling location tonight, as I was being vaguely annoyed with the very, very old volunteers who didn't really get the technology of the voting card. And I realized: I (age 30) could do that about 50 times faster and with rather more accuracy. I'm just not sure it's worth giving up a day of vacation time...and I don't know if I could have handled being yelled at by all those angry voters this morning.

Marc Fisher: Well, you probably would have done better at it than some of the folks who, while enormously good hearted, were really beyond the point when they could effectively do this job. Who knows, your employer might be willing to treat poll watching as if it were jury duty.

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Baltimore: Do some of the delays in counting the Maryland vote stem from all the people who wrote in "Mother Hubbard" for comptroller?

Marc Fisher: You'd have to ask Father Time, who is doing quite a number on us tonight.

Hey, if Schaefer wins, maybe that's his new name.

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Marc Fisher: When the District numbers come in, they pour in: Fenty 57, Cropp 32, Johns 8 with two thirds of precincts reporting. You can put this one in the bank.

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Marc Fisher: Shocker: Mendelson 65, Bolden 35 in DC Council at large. That may be an indication that areas west of the park had powerfully higher turnout than the rest of the city.

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Takoma Park: Marc, I'm going crazy any numbers yet???

Marc Fisher: Vincent Gray 58, Kathy Patterson 42 for council chairman.

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Mark in Adams Morgan: Why is Kojo Nnamdi reporting results with 75 percent of precincts reporting and the Post's got NOTHING?

Marc Fisher: We've got plenty--

DC Ward 3 council, with 11 of 17 precincts reporting:

An easy, dominating win for Mary Cheh, with 46 percent of the vote so far in a nine-way race. That's a powerful endorsement by the silent, pro-development majority against the NIMBYs and suburban wannabes who have fought against transit-oriented development around Metro stations.

Second place--Paul Strauss at 13 percent, then Eric Gaull and Sam Brooks with 8 percent.

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Ward 1 resident (12-year D.C. resident): I think Linda lost because she never thought of Fenty as a credible mayor. I lived somewhere else for a long time and as a result I am not blown away by his constituent service like others seem to be. Constituent service and GOTV is not going to take the city to the next level. Agree?

Marc Fisher: We shall see. As Fenty often says, what a lot of people in the city want is just to be able to depend on basic services. And if he can accomplish that, he'd be setting a standard that could help improve some of the more troubled parts of the bureaucracy. But you're right that governing is very different from campaigning--the real challenge lies ahead.

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Marc Fisher: Other DC Council races--

Ward 6--No surprise, school board member Tommy Wells trounces his two opponents, picking up 70 percent of the vote with all but three precincts reporting.

Ward 5--In what was expected to be a wildly splintered vote, Tommy Thomas, son of longtime council member Harry Thomas, wins handily, with 43 percent of the vote with 14 of 18 precincts reporting. Next highest total went to Frank Wilds with only 14 percent.

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Georgetown: Marc...are those percentages or actual votes

Marc Fisher: Those are percentages.

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Marc Fisher: Maryland now has about 10 percent of the vote counted, and the comptroller race looks like a nail-biter--at this early stage, it's Schaefer with 36 percent, Janet Owens with 35 and Peter Franchot with 29. Long way to go there.

In attorney general, Doug Gansler is up over Stuart Simms by 57 percent to 42 percent but we have no idea what that means because it's only 10 percent of the vote and we don't know where in the state those votes are coming from.

The Senate race is very, very close, with about 12 percent of precincts reporting, it's Ben Cardin 41 percent and Kweisi Mfume at 39 percent.

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Washington, D.C.: I see Jim Graham on the Fenty podium. He's known for trying to play it safe, and didn't endorse a candidate for mayor. How do you see his relationship with a Mayor Fenty and will Graham seek higher office?

Marc Fisher: Graham did indeed support Fenty, if a bit reluctantly. I fully expect to see council members jumping aboard the Fenty train even at this late hour, but Graham's not one of them.

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D.C.: God I am so disappointed. Fenty sounds like Bush. An empty suit. All the economic development and the improvement in city services (yes -- have you been to the DMV?) are down the drain. How did this lightweight win?

Marc Fisher: The jury is of course out on Fenty as a manager, but don't write him off as a lightweight--he is smarter than he sounds, and I don't mean that to sound condescending. He has immature rhetoric and diction--his sentences are filled with "stuff" and "thing," and that hides the fact that he knows his, ahem, stuff. Whenever I've interviewed him on city issues, I've found him to be well-informed, if not always capable of expressing his positions in clear and concise language.

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Doug in Rockville, Md.: Marc,

My wife and I walked to our polling place at Twinbrook Elementary in Rockville about 10 this morning -- voting was fast and easy. Voting always makes us feel especially proud to be an American ... and I think going to a polling place is an enormous part of the experience. I would be reluctant to change any part of our voting process in a way that undercuts connectedness to our community. Between the walk and the short waiting line at the polls, we bonded with 25-30 neighbors this morning.

Any prediction for who will emerge victorious among the Dist. 17 hopefuls? Barve and Simmons are obviously heading back to Annapolis, Speigel got the Post endorsement (and my vote), but I'm having trouble calling this race. Whaddya think, Marc?

Marc Fisher: No returns yet in that race, or any of the Montgomery contests, but my guess would be that Ryan Spiegel would join the two incumbents in victory.

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Washington, D.C.: Fenty really should have waited for Cropp to concede. It's just tacky. Did Skinner make that call?

Marc Fisher: Ouch. He really has to do something about that issue, as soon as possible.

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Florida Ave., D.C.: Where can I find the raw numbers by precinct/Ward for D.C.?

Marc Fisher: If you look way up the trail on this chat, you'll find links to results pages for both DC and Maryland. Or maybe Paul can repost them here.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Any numbers on my man Raskin yet?

Marc Fisher: Not a single vote there yet, but over in the other fascinating state Senate race in Prince George's County, challenger Jim Rosapepe is slamming incumbent John Giannetti by 61 percent to 37 percent with about one fifth of precincts reporting.

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Mark in Adams Morgan: Be honest -- where are you getting your numbers? WAMU?

Marc Fisher: I don't have a radio here--our numbers come directly from the Board of Elections computer links in each jurisdiction and from phone reports collected by our own tally desk in the Post newsroom.

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D.C.: I'm 21, and live in D.C.. I know absolutely nothing about politics but I voted anyway, and I voted for Fenty.

Seeing what Williams did for the city (and I've lived here my entire life), Fenty has some big shoes to fill. That being said, will Fenty continue Williams' dedication to development or will he go a different route?

Marc Fisher: Fenty will surely try to maintain the city's growth while taking a more neighborhood-friendly focus than Williams did. The great untold story of the Williams years is the astonishing change he helped happen in some of the city's most depressed areas. But his administration did far too little to sell the good side of that story while easing the pain for those who were displaced or felt threatened by the pace of economic change. Fenty is much more attuned to those feelings of hurt, but he says he's also willing to stand up to neighborhood opposition to the kind of development the city desperately needs.

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Northwest, D.C.: In response to the question about Cropp conceding, Cropp started her speech before Fenty did and it sure sounded like a concession speech to me.

Marc Fisher: I didn't see the speech, but that sure sounds right to me--she's a class act when it comes to that sort of thing.

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Cap Hill: Hey Marc: Is the Post going to report on D.C. returns tonight? What's going on over there?

Marc Fisher: I'm feeding them as fast as I can....

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New Here: What's "transit-oriented development"?

Marc Fisher: Development that seeks to build high density around transit stations, increasing the portion of the population that can make it to work and errands without getting in a car. It's the greatest payoff any place can get from its investment in public transit infrastructure, but we sadly have too many wealthy neighborhoods where a vocal minority has been allowed to stomp all over the rights of others and the ability of the city to expand its tax base so it can take care of those most in need.

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washingtonpost.com: Numbers should be updated soon: D.C. Results

Maryland Results

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Washington, D.C.: Any word on the Edwards/Wynn race? I would LOVE it if Edwards wins.

Marc Fisher: With about 20 percent of the vote in, Rep. Al Wynn is winning rather handily, with 56 percent of the vote to challenger Donna Edwards' 40 percent. But be careful here: Those votes are almost certainly all from Prince George's precincts--a significant chunk of that district is in Montgomery County, which is where Edwards expected to do much better. So this too will be a late one.

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Marc Fisher: Back with more in about 15 minutes.

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Marc Fisher: Ok, it's Mayor Fenty. Looks like Ben Cardin is opening a solid lead over Kweisi Mfume in the Maryland Senate race, even without the boost he expects to get from Montgomery voters. And in Prince George's, the county executive race is neck and neck. Just a few weeks ago, the experts were scoffing at Rushern Baker's challenge to Jack Johnson, calling it a repeat of last election, when Baker was trounced. But this one is thisclose.

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Petworth, D.C.: Is Cropp going to run as independent in the general election or was this just too convincing of a defeat?

Marc Fisher: She conceded gracefully. She's out.

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Ward 4: What happens to Ward 4 with Fenty running for mayor? Why isn't Ward 4 electing a new council member this year?

Marc Fisher: Fenty would have held on to his Ward 4 seat had he not won tonight. Ward 4 does not normally elect a council member in this election cycle, but rather in the presidential year. So now there will have to be a special election to fill Fenty's seat. There will also have to be a special election in Ward 7 to fill Vincent Gray's seat now that he will move up to become council chairman.

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Silver Spring, Md.: One additional voting glitch that I haven't seen much on is that in my ballot (at Silver Spring International Middle school, MD district 18), Tom Perez was on the electronic ballot for Attorney General. He was not on my paper sample ballot, and I understood that he had been disqualified. There were no instructions given not to vote for him, and I wondered if his disqualification had been overturned at the last minute. Assuming that some people voted for him, what will happen to those votes? If they could fix the sample ballots, why couldn't they fix the electronic ballots? Unless there is a very clear winner, I think loser will be able to claim that the ballot error distorted the results. Won't this election inevitably be tied up in lawsuits?

Marc Fisher: That's not a glitch. Perez was disqualified by the court too close to election day for his name to be removed from the ballots. Any votes cast for him simply are not counted.

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D.C.: What a story this election is... Patterson loses but Mendelson wins. Have we turned the corner in D.C.? Who the heck in, say, Ward 8, voted for Phil Mendelson?

Marc Fisher: A lot of people, apparently. We won't have ward by ward breakdowns till the morning, but for Mendelson to have won this convincingly, he had to have citywide support. This, along with apparent citywide support for Gray over Patterson, is a very heartening sign of Washingtonians of both races crossing over to vote for the candidate they thought would do the better job, rather than the candidate of their race.

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MoCo: Marc, Please, please, please have an entire team of reporters investigate what Takoma Park just told us about "voting" by writing candidate names on scraps of paper and putting them in a CVS bag. There are not enough synonyms for "appalling" to begin to describe that!

What would it take for MoCo to have a new election???

Marc Fisher: Astonishingly, our reporters have confirmed that the "please write your choice on blank white paper" incident really did happen. This is not a pretty picture. Much more to come in tomorrow's Post.

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Bethesda, Md.: "It's all about the training. Think about your own observations of poll workers and then think about the complexity of the new voting technologies. Does that equation compute?"

Really Marc, with all the snafus going on today, do you have to throw age stereotypes into the mix? If the polls were not equipped with the correct cards and a sufficient number of paper provisional ballots, that is hardly the fault of older election judges. And, the voting machines, at least the part that the voters and judges are involved with, are ridiculously simple to use. Don't buy into the stereotype that just because someone has white hair and a task involves a machine the two are incompatible.

(And I'm not even white-haired yet, just bothered by blanket generalizations!)

Marc Fisher: Fair comment, and I don't mean to condemn the many old folks who do great service as pollwatchers and clerks, but there are also some who are just not up to the job.

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Takoma Park: What about for the Raskin vs. Ruben race?

Marc Fisher: With about three-fifths of precincts reporting, Raskin the challenger is up by 57 percent to 43 percent over longtime senator Ruben. But Montgomery still has a lot of counting to do.

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Bethesda, Md.: Does the Cardin campaign regard the voting problems in Montgomery County as a serious threat to his nomination?

Marc Fisher: If they did earlier today, they don't anymore--looks like Cardin has it. He's up by 45 percent to 36 percent with about a third of the precincts reporting.

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Re: volunteering at the polls: Marc, I'd be happy to, after today's fiasco, but have no idea how to do that. How about doing a public service and writing a how-to and exhortation column the next time there's a chance to sign up? Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Maryland County Election Offices

Marc Fisher: Terrific idea--I'll put it on my list. Thanks.

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washingtonpost.com: Owens 35 percent; Franchot 33; Schaefer 32

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Lancelot Link: "Sensible?: There ain't nothing sensible about that hair!"

William Donald, are you posting in Fisher's chat?

Marc Fisher: He may have more time to join us here on the big board. It's still a very tight race, but at the moment, Schaefer is trailing his two challengers. With about 30 percent of precincts reporting, it's Janet Owens 35 percent, Peter Franchot 33 percent and the old man himself at 31 percent. Note that this is without many votes counted in Montgomery, where Franchot could be expected to dominate.

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Va.: Marc, I am amazed as to why Jack Johnson still is seen as a serious contender for re-election as Prince George's County Executive. I have seen him duck debates (literally and figuratively), deflect responsibility to others, ignore the outrageous crime problem in the county, and basically pretend that all his job requires is to attend ribbon-cutting ceremonies. The man is a complete failure, and it is pretty obvious that the county needs real leadership. Prince George's is the most affluent majority-black county in the nation, so why does Johnson still have a good chance of winning re-election against the much better and articulate Rushern Baker?

Marc Fisher: This race remains extremely tight. With about 35 percent of precincts reporting, Johnson is up by 51 percent to Baker's 49 percent. Even if Johnson pulls it out, it's a remarkable challenge. But your question remains a good one--what exactly is his appeal? After all the scandals, after all the complaints about the police and the school system, how does Johnson do it? He's a master of working the Sunday church circuit, and he has stolen a page from Gov. Bobby Haircut's playbook, using attacks on the news media as a way of deflecting criticism and rallying emotional support for the image of himself as embattled black leader fighting against slanted white institutions.

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It's relatively easy to volunteer: And don't forget that you can also get training to register voters or simply distribute forms. We own a business near the University of Maryland and offer the forms to students and at events.

Marc Fisher: Great--do you get good response from students?

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Glover Park: I'm all for concerned citizens running for public office, but don't you think it's interesting that for all the people posting in community message boards, forums and blogs in support of Jonathan Rees in DC's Ward 3, right now he only has FIFTEEN votes?

It's almost as though he was posting all those messages himself! I, for one, am utterly embarrassed that the city gave him $500 to run the campaign he did. Goodnight Jonathan Rees.

Marc Fisher: Thanks, Mr. Rees.

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Germantown, Md.: Marc--

Voted without a problem this morning about 8 a.m. at Lake Seneca Elementary in Germantown. Very light volume, which is fortunate because our older poll workers were not handling the computerized voter rolls very well. As far as the previous poster on the Tom Perez issue, poll workers were handing out a slip of paper that explained that any votes for Perez would be thrown out due to the court decision. This looked to be something official that was printed up. Wonder if it was forgotten along with the Authorization Cards this morning at other precincts.

Marc Fisher: Ouch.

Perez is not finished, though. Watch for him to run again for an office near you. He's a formidable candidate and has been a strong county council member.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I saw and heard from far too many people not able to vote today in Montgomery county. I'm not one to get bent out of shape very easily, but I think this election isn't a valid one. I think the results should be overturned and done over again. Any chance this could happen?

Marc Fisher: Hard to imagine--those candidates who protested got the relief they sought, an extension of voting hours.

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Petworth, D.C.: Any early predictions on who runs and/or wins in Ward 4 in the special election?

Marc Fisher: Not Linda Cropp.

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Alexandria, Va.: What happens to Cropp now? Is she off the council entirely? Or has she just given up the chairmanship? And if she is off the council, do you think she'll try to win her old job back in the next election?

Marc Fisher: Her term as chairman expires at the end of this year and that will mark the end of her career in D.C. politics. She has talked for some time about wanting to retire to her vacation home in Ocean City and she's given every indication that that's what she'll do.

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Ward 3: Marc --

I didn't vote for Mary Cheh, but I'm glad that she got a near-majority (46 percent reported right now). Ditto for Tommy Wells and Tommy Thomas. D.C.'s practically-one-party political system means that incumbents are nearly impossible to dislodge, and that the only turnover on the council comes when Council members decide to move on. What usually follows is a crowded field, with the new incumbent picked by a very small number of voters. I guess this year was different.

I know a lot of incumbents in a lot of places are undefeatable, but D.C. seems to have a structural problem. Do you see any change forthcoming to make our races more competitive?

I'm getting results from WTOP.com. I can't find them on either The Post or the DCBOEE Web sites.

Marc Fisher: These were highly competitive races and in at least a couple of the contests, there were some very good candidates. It's true that some incumbents seem deeply entrenched, but I'd argue that that's less true in the District than in most places, certainly less true than in almost all congressional races around the country.

Seems to me D.C. voters were very discerning today. They sensed a difference in style and approach between Kathy Patterson and Vincent Gray, and they saw through Scott Bolden's racially-tinged populism and held their noses and voted for the underwhelming but straightforward Phil Mendelson.

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Ward 3: A "victory for the silent, pro-development majority"? Never thought you were a Nixon man, Marc.

Marc Fisher: How often in life do you get to use that phrase and mean it? Gotta grab the opportunities when they come along.

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Comptroller race...: Seeing the results, I now regret this, but as one of the 2/3 of Maryland Democrats casting their vote primarily to get Schaefer out, I voted for Owens, even though I like Franchot better, because most polls had Owens leading, and I felt like a vote for Franchot would be dividing the vote the wrong way.

Everyone has mentioned MoCo being open an extra hour having an effect on the early results, but would Baltimore City (also extended an hour) not skew towards Schaefer?

Marc Fisher: Yes, probably, but Montgomery is likely to skew even more so for Franchot. So the fat lady has not yet sung in this one. And I don't mean Mother Hubbard.

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Washington, D.C.: You are mistaken. Jim Graham endorsed Fenty.

Marc Fisher: That's what I said. And that's what he did.

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Franchot domination?: Gotta tell you, Marc, I wouldn't be so sure that the MoCo vote will seal the deal for Peter Franchot. For seven years (until late 2005) I lived right down the street from the guy, and the people in the neighborhood -hated- him. The whole time I lived there he might have said hello to me once; he never spoke to anyone unless it was reelection time (with the exception of his complaints about the bright light in his elderly neighbor's back yard). In his races for state legislature, he probably got fewer votes on his own block in Tacky Park than anywhere else in the state.

Marc Fisher: There are a number of folks in the Maryland legislature who very much share your view and it's by no means a lock that Franchot can come back tonight based just on the MoCo results. It looks like anyone can win this.

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Alexandria, Va.: This remark will give away my age, because a young person wouldn't find it remarkable, but anyway . . .

Even though she lost and even though she might not have been a great mayor, it's pretty cool that a black woman was a credible candidate for mayor. (Atlanta's excellent mayor, Shirley Franklin, is another.)

Wouldn't have happened 50 years ago. Sometimes things really do get better.

Marc Fisher: True enough. It's also notable that Fenty is the first District-born and -raised mayor this city has had in the home rule era.

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Old Dominion: I live in Virginia and I always look forward to the baseball questions in your regular chat, so I don't know what I'm doing here tonight... but thanks for spending a few extra hours with us.

Marc Fisher: And thank you--I've been so deep in electionland, I don't even know if the Nats won or lost. Though I could guess.

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Marc Fisher: Well, we're going to wrap up this here chatorama for the evening and resume with you on Washington Post Radio in a few hours. We'll have analysis all morning long, including an in-depth discussion of the results at 10:30 a.m. And there's a ton of info coming your way in the morning paper. Back here with you on Potomac Confidential Thursday at noon, where we can glean all the meaning you want.

Thanks for staying up with me. Get some sleep--or if you're like me, stay at the machine till this Schaefer thing and those Prince George's and Montgomery county executive races settle.

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