Tuesday, Nov. 4, 7 p.m.

Potomac Confidential: Election Special

Marc Fisher
Washington Post Metro Columnist
Tuesday, November 4, 2008; 7:00 PM

Welcome to Election Night on Potomac Confidential, where Metro columnist Marc Fisher was online to check in on the results of national and local races, including the Virginia senators race, the Maryland slots measure, the D.C. city council and school board and more.

He'll fielded questions, comments or complaint you may have about your voting experience.

A transcript follows.

Special Note: Because of the anticipated length of the discussion, responses will be posted in reverse order, with the most recent answers at the top.


Marc Fisher: That wraps up tonight's show--lots more coming up here on the site tonight and into the morning. We'll come together at our regular time, noon on Thursday, to sift through all the races and look ahead in Virginia, Maryland and the District. Thanks for checking in on this historic night.


Marc Fisher: TV networks: Obama elected president.


Falls Church, Va.: Marc,

In Virginia, when are both the true absentee ballots (mailed in) and the advance voting ballots tallied? Are they part of the tallies we're seeing now? With such a close race in Virginia and with what I believe to have been much heavier than usual absentee/advance voting, this seems quite relevant!

Marc Fisher: The paper absentee ballots won't be counted for a while. Those in-person absentee ballots can be processed immediately.


Alexandria, Va: Beside the White House, what other notable residential real estates would be affected by the election results tonight?

Mark Warner is staying put where he is, and so is Gerry Connoly.

If Obama wins, would that turn the metro area even bluer with his policy wonks and aids moving/settling into the region?

Marc Fisher: The real estate turnover involved in a change of administrations, even one that switches the party in power, is always overblown. Most of the players who will assume top administration positions already live here and will simply change offices. But there is always an influx of lower and mid-level folks who were campaign workers and local officials and now take their place in the political positions in the various agencies. So you'll see more movement in the moderate levels of the real estate market than at the higher levels--most of the top White House staff and agency heads will come from Washington government jobs or from their parking spots at the various think tanks, non-profits, universities and the like.


Georgtowner: How do I find out results about the council races?

How'd Patrick Mara do vs. the "independent" Brown?

Did Christina Culver land some hits on Jack Evans?

Marc Fisher: Republican Culver will be lucky to hit 20 percent of the vote in her longshot challenge to Democrat incumbent Jack Evans in that Ward 2 race. Evans is running away with it, as expected.



Marc Fisher: Rush to judgment? Perhaps not, given that Obama has only 50.5 percent of the vote, but much of the outstanding vote is from Fairfax County, so you complete the equation.


Marc Fisher: We finally have our first returns from the District tonight. Obama is winning 92 percent of the vote in the city--some supporters had brashly predicted he might hit 95 percent.

Sadly, shadow senator Paul Strauss is trouncing Republican Nelson Rimensnyder despite Strauss's arrest for drunk driving last month.

And in the one real contest for D.C. Council, At large member Kwame Brown is running away with the race as expected, and the second seat is a closer contest: With just 15 percent of the vote counted, Michael Brown is in the lead with 19 percent of the vote, followed by Republican Patrick Mara with 13 percent and incumbent Carol Schwartz, waging a write-in campaign, trails with 11 percent. Still a long way to go on that one.


Marc Fisher: Some Montgomery County numbers coming in now: Surprise--slots is winning in MoCo, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Also, longtime school board member Stephen Abrams is in danger of losing his seat; he's down 51-49 at this point to challenger Laura Berthiaume.


Marc Fisher: Maryland: Associated Press calls victory for the legalization of slots. The Yes vote is leading by 60-40 percent with 40 percent of the vote counted.

Also in Maryland, in that First District House race, Democrat Frank Kratovil is clinging to a very tight lead over Republican Andy Harris, 49 percent to 48.6 percent, with about a third of the vote reporting.


"We'll be back": Republicans don't have to worry too much. Eighteen months from January, Obama's cool demeanor will look like boredom and detachment as he raises everyone's taxes at the same time that inflation goes into hyper drive, while the "bailed-out" market will still below 10,000 and no less corrupt. I predict that halfway through his term, he will have ratings in the low 30s or high 20s, and the solidly Democratic Congress will be even lower. The Republicans will have four years to regroup and fund-raise and will look America's savior in 2012.

These things go in cycles, you know.

Marc Fisher: Isn't that getting just a tad ahead of the game?


Fairfax, Va.: Ok...I'm willing to accept the "not enough resources" answer about coverage of third party candidates during the campaigning process, but what about the results? Sure, 99 percent of the vote is going to the major party candidates, but is it too much to ask, with only four names on the ballot, that you show the voting results for all candidates in a local race? C'mon...throw us freaks a bone!

Marc Fisher: Fair enough.

I just did a quick scan through the results in those states that are reporting any significant numbers and I don't see Bob Barr reaching 1 percent in any state. Ralph Nader makes it to 1 percent in a couple of places. In Maryland, Nader is at 0.6 percent and Barr, the Libertarian, is at 0.4 percent. In Virginia, both of those candidates are at 0.3 percent.


Alexandria, Va.: Marc -- the one thing I hope we see moving forward is serious people doing serious work. Too many ninnies at my work talking about socialism and other white noise. It will be nice to see the grownups back in charge.

Marc Fisher: Obviously, the polarization fomented by TV news and partisan web sites has an impact on how some people talk about politics, and so you hear the same inflammatory phrases coming from both ends of the spectrum. Will that dissipate as a new administration settles in? To some extent, and depending on events and how the new folks handle themselves, but ratcheted-up rhetoric is part of our new politico-media reality and the parties will have to get used to it and perhaps find ways to push political language back toward the center as they seek ways to build new majority coalitions.


Muncie, Ind.: I heard on the news that in Indianapolis a poll worker had to be replaced for challenging Democratic voters just on the basis that they're Democrats.

If this election is a rout, will the Democrats still pursue cases of voter suppression? A lot of us are still angry about Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.

Marc Fisher: There are always going to be rogue pollworkers and dirty tricks and so on--isolated instances are easy to deal with. What you want to be on the lookout for is anything on a larger scale, and there have been no credible reports of anything like that today.


washingtonpost.com: A Real McCain Supporter? Or Just a Clintonite on the Rebound? (Post, Sept. 21)

Marc Fisher: Here's my piece from earlier in the fall on Lynette Long, a Hillary Clinton supporter who switched over to McCain-Palin.


Marc Fisher: With most of the votes now counted, it looks like those downstate Virginia House upsets by two Democrats, Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello, may hold. But there's a bit of a surprise in northern Virginia too, where Gerry Connolly, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, is only about three percentage points ahead of Republican Keith Fimian in the race to succeed Tom Davis. Connolly is still likely to win, but what had once looked like an easy victory is looking instead like a reasonably close race.

The one big runaway is that of Frank Wolf, the Republican congressman from Fairfax, Loudoun and points west. He's leading Democratic challenger Judy Feder by a powerful 62-36 margin with about 60 percent of the vote counted. Why Democrats didn't look for a stronger challenger to Wolf is a question the party bosses will likely be asking themselves tomorrow.


Palin : Shortly after the Republican convention you ran an interesting story about many women who were going to switch their allegiance to the Republicans in this election because of Palin. I am wondering what ended up happening with these women as they got to know Palin better. Did they stick with their original thoughts or change their minds?

washingtonpost.com: In Poll, McCain Closes the Gap With Obama (Post, Sept. 9)

Marc Fisher: Those women, several of whom I profiled soon after the Palin choice, fell into a couple of different categories. Some were genuinely attracted by Palin's life story and her seemingly fresh and atypically political rhetoric and personality. Others were Hillary Clinton supporters who somehow blamed Obama for dashing their dreams and were so embittered that they wanted to switch teams to send Obama and other Democrats a message. Many of those in the first camp stuck with McCain-Palin; many of those in the second camp got over their disappointment and rejoined the Dems.


Nostalgia: I always went to the polls with my parents or grandparents. We went behind a current and pulled a lever on a big voting booth. I loved this and as an adult have never gotten an opportunity to do so. It has been all bubble sheets and computers. I was lamenting this on the phone with my sister. Come to find out she gets to go into the booth in Manhattan. And my parents are in the booth in Philly. I am totally jealous. I want to pull a lever!!

Marc Fisher: I love the lever! There aren't many states left where that admittedly ancient technology is still in use, but it's enormously satisfying because it's a physical, mechanical act and because it makes a great sound. I think the sound is the key.

Since we're talking about slots tonight, we should make that analogy: Although modern electronic slot machines don't need to make any noises, they've maintained not only the old sounds of the mechanical machines but also the one-armed bandit lever, even though it doesn't actually move any gears anymore. It's all about the physicality of the game--same with voting.


Falls Church, Va.: While I understand that technically there is no early voting in Virginia, the people administering the early in-person absentee voting in Virginia really did not care what your excuse was.

Marc Fisher: To the extent that is true--and it is--you could look at this year as something of an experiment with early voting. But still, this year's experience here doesn't begin to approach what happens out West, where half the population or more votes early and the Election Day experience is greatly diminished.


Marc Fisher: Maryland's votes are finally starting to come in in some significant numbers and the House race in the 1st District has shifted and Democrat Frank Kratovil has taken a tiny lead over Republican Andy Harris.


Marc Fisher: With 80 percent of the vote counted, Obama just took his first lead in Virginia.

With the same new batch of votes, the two Democratic House challengers downstate took leads over Reps. Virgil Goode, an independent who caucuses with the Republicans, and Thelma Drake, a Republican.


The Book: Voting in previous elections in NE DC I cannot tell you how much I learned to hate the book. The poll workers were elderly, the voters were elderly and the book was overwhelming to everyone. People just could not get their signatures on the correct lines, find the names efficiently, etc.

Marc Fisher: I like the book because you can see who your neighbors are and whether they've voted yet that day. It's a rare vestige of the time when voting was a much more public and communal act.


Anonymous: From the freerepublic.com:

Post-Mortem Time? Tuesday, November 04, 2008 9:41:30 PM - by henkster - 1 replies - 128+ views Assuming the numbers hold, McCain lost. We have our first socialist regime.

Marc, what do you say to people like that?

Marc Fisher: What can you say? After Reagan won, there were similarly immature folks on the other side who announced to their friends that the country was becoming fascistic. In both cases, it's probably best to just ignore such ravings.


No Whining?: Well, someone on the chat tonight complained about having to wait in line 10 WHOLE MINUTES, in the "mobbed" line for A-D voters while voters in the E-I line "sailed" by . . . .

But I agree generally that most people I saw around the polls seemed to be exhibiting a lot more patience and good cheer.

I second the poster who said we all owe a debt of thanks to those who volunteer to work the polls, including for elections that are much less glamorous (and unfortunately less well attended) than the one taking place today. It is work that it is both critical and underappreciated (as well as neighborly). Bravo!

Marc Fisher: There will always be whiners, but today's voting went remarkably smoothly, especially given the size of the turnout.


Durham, N.C.: I was truly disappointed to find no line whatsoever when I went to vote this afternoon. I was looking forward to being in a line, being able to share the excitement of the day -- and, not to stereotype, but since my precinct is heavily African-American, it would have been very exciting, I'm sure. As it was, it was the six officials with the alphabet books, the two handing out the paper ballots, the guy giving out "I Voted" stickers, and me (although 780 people had already voted ahead of me -- our machines register that when you slide in your paper ballot). We had early voting here in NC and they're saying nearly half of all voters did in fact vote early. It made today a lonely experience.

Marc Fisher: That's the downside of early voting...


Washington, D.C.:"This was a powerful argument for maintaining Election Day as a one-day, communal event."

I agree, sort of. Seems to have been a relatively error free day voting wise, and couldn't one reason for that be the EARLY VOTING? I like the notion of communal voting. But to make sure everyone has a chance to vote, and when we get more and more people registered, it seems that we Americans cannot pull off a one day election. There are just too many mistakes and too much disenfranchisement.

(Also, we don't know the extent of any voting errors yet. And we may never know.)

Marc Fisher: If we had early voting in this region and the Election Day process then went easily, you'd certainly have an argument for using early voting as an escape valve in instances of huge turnout. But we don't yet have early voting in Virginia, Maryland or the District. Rather, all we have is the usual absentee voting procedure, so you can't credit early voting for making today relatively smooth going.


Marc Fisher: No D.C. returns as yet.


Marc Fisher: Maryland update:

You can probably expect to be able to gamble on slots in Maryland sometime in the next couple of years. With about 15 percent of the vote counted, Marylanders are voicing their approval of slots gambling by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin. They're approving early voting by a much wider margin.

In Maryland's one tight congressional race, in District 1 on the Eastern Shore and Anne Arundel County, in the early going, Republican Andy Harris has a very slim lead over Democrat Frank Kratovil, 51-46.


Anonymous: biggest surprise/unexpected outcome so far for you?

Marc Fisher: Probably seeing how close the races are in a couple of the Virginia House contests that just a few weeks ago would have seemed easy reelection bids for Republican incumbents.


Four Corners, Md.: How should Republicans look at the future mid-term and, a little farther down the road, Presidential election.

It's hard not to feel like the world has collapsed around us. But so many of my like-minded friends tell me that we're just due for a repeat of 1992-94 and, like Arnold, "we'll be back."

I'm not feeling it but would be curious for an unbiased opinion.

Marc Fisher:"We'll be back" is the mature and reasonable response of any party that's ousted from power--the period after a defeat is time to figure out how to rejigger the message and agenda of that party. If that's the battle cry we hear in the coming weeks, that would be a far sight better than "the election was stolen" or any of the other cynical and crass stuff that's dominating talk radio this evening.


Anonymous: Most counts have Obama up about 195-90 in electoral vote, but have the popular vote almost tied. How does that happen? Much higher percentage of turnout in the red states, despite their smaller overall populations?

Marc Fisher: The electoral vote and the actual popular vote count progress along very different tracks. The electoral votes you're seeing here on the site and on TV are the tally of projections that are made state by state based on exit polls and, in many cases, on scattered actual returns in those states. The popular vote is an aggregated actual count of those votes that have been counted in all states where polls have closed. So while a big state like New York with its mother lode of electoral votes is included in that electoral tally, there may only be a few thousand New York votes included in that popular vote tally you're seeing. You shouldn't compare the two at this early stage of the count.


Washington, D.C.: re: lots of red in Virginia

One thing to remember is that those large swatches of red don't have the population density of the areas generally considered to be Obama's strongholds.

Marc Fisher: Right--in fact, a fairly dramatic story may be developing in Virginia, where what had originally been expected to be one Democratic House pickup could turn into two or three.

Gerry Connolly looks like he'll pick up Tom Davis's seat in Fairfax County, but Rep. Thelma Drake is locked in a 50-50 contest with Democratic challenger Glenn Nye in the Hampton Roads area, and now in the 5th District, independent Rep. Virgil Goode is running only a couple of percentage points ahead of Democratic challenger Tom Perriello.


washingtonpost.com: Maryland State Board of Elections

Marc Fisher: That's the state's site for raw vote count.


Maryland Ballot Questions: Hi Marc,

Do you have a good Web site where I can go to see (eventually) the results of these ballot measures? Thanks.... (oh and I waited 3 1/2 hours to vote today in Silver Spring, Md. ... I picked the worst time to vote obviously, right when the polls opened at 7 a.m., but it was well worth the wait to vote for Obama.)

Marc Fisher: Here's the site to check but the numbers are coming in very slowly in Maryland. Probably you'll see a big surge there in about an hour.


Arlington, Va.: On Virginia timing: MSNBC just said that 0 percent are reporting from Arlington. Still have a ways to go on that one.

Marc Fisher: Yes, there are now huge gaps in the reporting of Virginia votes.

There are parts of the state where 60 percent of the vote has been counted, yet only 16 percent is in in Fairfax and the congressional race to succeed Tom Davis there is still not called because of that slow count. But Gerry Connolly is leading Republican Keith Fimian by a fair margin there.


"Rather, I saw one emotional scene after another...": Absolutely! I spent 2 hours waiting to vote today and was able to spend that time talking to people in my neighborhood in Silver Spring that I otherwise never would have had the chance to. It was a great day.

Marc Fisher: As the election moves closer and closer to an Obama victory, I am reminded again and again of the passion that many voters, black and white, demonstrated at the polls today, their desire to be part of a history-making day, and their palpable satisfaction in doing that together with their neighbors. This was a powerful argument for maintaining Election Day as a one-day, communal event.


No More Book: Voting in Maryland today registration was by computer. I gave them my name and a receipt was printed that was signed by myself and the election judge. Very, very efficient.

Marc Fisher: You won't be surprised to learn that I like the book. I'm sure the advocates of electronic voting are correct that their systems are theoretically superior in accuracy and speed, but I hear voters talking quite frequently about their greater trust in paper, whether it's the registration books or the ballots or the receipts. This may be a generational shift, but at least for the foreseeable future, trust lies in paper, and voting is all about trust.


Four Corners, Md.: Fox projects Ohio for Obama.

It's all done now.

Marc Fisher: Ohio is your ultimate bellwether state. NBC has also projected Obama in Ohio.


Washington, D.C.: The general rule for these things is that votes from urban areas in swing states get counted last, so states tend to trend Democratic as the night goes on, right?

Marc Fisher: That's usually the case. In most places, small, rural communities report their votes faster, in part because they have fewer votes to report and in part because they just seem to be better at the job. In most Rust Belt states, it's a pretty longstanding part of the political tradition that the inner city areas report last, sometimes because of traffic congestion and sometimes because the pollworkers go out for a quick one before driving the boxes downtown.


Denver: Hi,

In Denver County you can stop by and vote at any precinct -- they have all the different ballots at each one. Is this not the case in other places where you have to go to just one place? I forget how many years ago Denver implemented that decision but it sure is convenient so you can vote by work or your home or where you think the line will be smaller.

Marc Fisher: No, in most states you must vote at your local neighborhood polling place--it's mainly in states with early voting or mail-in voting that there is a new, more flexible attitude about where people vote. I far prefer the old system because it adds a whole additional level of security--the neighbors who recognize and know many of those who come to vote. That's a kind of security that makes a much greater difference than does checking an ID card.


Bowie, Md.: Marc, why can't we use this scrolling format (most recent at the top) all the time, like during Thursday lunch?

Marc Fisher: Interesting idea--I'll ask the powers that be to compare the two and think about their relative merits.


Bristow, Va.: When I drove by my polling place this morning just before the polls opened, the line stretched all the way to the end of the bus loop at the school. I left work a little early and was prepared to face long lines when I voted after work, even bringing a paperback ("Democracy in America") with me. I was kind of disappointed to encounter no lines at all at 5:30 PM. It wasn't a matter of excess staffing or polling stations -- there just wasn't anyone there at that time. I'm sure glad I skipped the opportunity to vote absentee early (my commute qualified me).

On the plus side, our school board chairman was handing out sample ballots outside, and I was able to have a good conversation with him about some issues that are important to me. So, I still got my taste of representative democracy, just not in the way I'd anticipated.

Marc Fisher: I have to say that despite all the whining and handwringing that took place prior to today about early voting and long queues at the polls and the lousy election technologies that various localities use, I heard no such complaints out there today. Rather, I saw one emotional scene after another as people struck up conversations with others in line, told their stories about why this election means more to them than previous ones, and generally relished this day.


Anonymous: What will The Post, Times, CNN, MSNBC, FOXNews, Huffington Post, Drudge, Jon Stewart, etc. have to talk about after the election? Will we go back to celebrity trials an runaway brides?

Marc Fisher: Serious news organizations such as The Post will redouble our focus on the federal government, from the transition to the new president's program and efforts to work with a Democratic-dominated Congress. The cable TV channels will likely return to celebrity fare and the sensational menu of political and other news that dominated their airwaves prior to the campaign.


Tyson's Corner, Va.: At what point can they call the Virginia race? I see a lot of counties in red (for McCain) and very few in blue, although Fairfax county is only reporting 9 percent...but can Obama take Virginia with so many counties reporting McCain?

Marc Fisher: If, as expected, Obama wins Fairfax with more than 60 percent of the vote, that could alter the statewide picture rather dramatically. Northern Virginia accounts for about 30 percent of Virginia's votes. So the fact that McCain is now up in Virginia with about 51 percent of the vote doesn't necessarily say much about the eventual outcome. Stay tuned.


Fairfax, Va.: The early results have Obama up in Ohio and Pennsylvania by a lot, and close in Florida and Indiana, but way behind in Virginia -- and that's despite all the support that went to Warner. What's the deal?

Marc Fisher: At this early stage in the raw count, the numbers can be highly skewed according to which parts of the state are reporting their counts. In Virginia, for example, some of the southside and central Virginia districts have reported more than half of their votes, while much of Fairfax County has reported less than 10 percent of its vote.


Chantilly, Va.: Just a comment about breaking up the poll book by last name: at my polling place, where I worked as a new election official, the books were distributed and divided equally by last name. Interestingly, at some points during the day, one line had many more than the others, while at other times the other lines had more. So: while the book was divided equally, the citizens were arriving at different rates and it was not equally distributed across the alphabet.

Marc Fisher: Sounds like a job for some enterprising algorithm writers.


DC Voter Rolls/Alphabet: My experience was the opposite of your earlier posters. At my precinct this, I was marveling that there was just one line devoted just to names beginning with the letters R and S -- I didn't fall into that category, but it clearly reflected some kind of forethought about alphabetic distribution of names. It don't know if the breakdown is the same city wide, or if it differs from precinct to precinct.

Marc Fisher: I bet it varies quite a bit precinct by precinct, depending on the demographic makeup of that area.


Fairfax, Va.: They just called the Senate race in NC--Libby Dole lost! What does that say about the state of the Republican party?

Marc Fisher: It implies that Obama has drawn huge support from blacks in North Carolina and that Dole alienated her base, and it also may say that North Carolina is changing in some ways quite similar to Virginia, both in the increasing minority population and in the more educated and affluent population in some of the urban and suburban parts of the state.


Marc Fisher: TV networks calling NC Senate for Kay Hagan over Elizabeth Dole.


Alexandria, Va.: Marc - lots of complaining about how elections are administered around here. What, exactly do people expect of what is essentially a volunteer organization? If we were serious about this, we would have trained state election officials running the polls. We would have more polling places, and there would be real funding. To say nothing of having a national standard for voting methods.

Hats off to the people who do go out there at 5 AM to make this happen. They are patriots, and should be applauded as such.

Marc Fisher: Well said--and exactly right. Voting is a matter of trust, and it's a community effort. The people running your local polling place are your neighbors, doing this work out of the goodness of their hearts.


Falls Church, Va.: The poster referring to himself as Dunn Loring, Va., only sees what he wants to see. Just FYI in response to questions DL raised across a -couple of discussions last week, my next-door neighbor has a flag and an Obama poster (and is a vet) and the truck parked on the other side has a Semper Fi sticker next several Obama stickers.

Marc Fisher: That tracks my reporting in a number of Virginia neighborhoods with heavy military family populations--while McCain had strong support there, Obama was winning over lots of hearts and minds as well.


Washington, D.C.: re: alphabet and voting lines. I had the same discussion last year with a bunch of friends. Most of us complained about the stupidity of not dividing the names equally, but one person came up with a much better theory -- it's the efficiency of the poll worker at each line that makes the difference.

Marc Fisher: Yes, that's very true--some poll workers are quick and others glacial. It's really not fair to complain about it since they are either volunteers or barely paid at all, so the right thing to do is to just thank them for their service and swallow it. But it's not too much to ask the professionals to design a system that divides people into queues more equitably. And I did think that having the guy with severe shakes be in charge of separating the paper ballots from their pad and handing them to voters was a bit, well, cruel.


Alexandria, Va.: Umm, how is Indiana too close to call good for McCain (the underdog)? After all this is a state Bush carried by a huge margin. Isn't it more that having your opponent's base states be too close to call is good for your candidate?

Marc Fisher: Too close to call is good for the underdog, whomever he may be. In the case of Indiana, that would be Obama.


Laurel, Md.: The Slots question language stipulates that it will only include certain counties, including Anne Arundel. Is it decided what the venue will be (e.g. Laurel Racetrack)?

Marc Fisher: The wording of the law doesn't specify the actual location, but the locations have indeed been chosen, if unofficially, and that's why those county locations are named in the ballot measure. Yes, the Anne Arundel location is the Laurel track. What remains to be seen, though, is whether the gambling industry will go ahead and put those slots casinos into tracks that are otherwise failing. The companies that own horse tracks are in deep financial trouble in many cases and, as the suspension of racing at Rosecroft demonstrates most dramatically, it's not clear that those companies can keep going on.


Chapel Hill, N.C.: Hi, Marc, thanks for doing this tonight! What's up with the map on the Web site's front page? It shows South Carolina in red, with 1 percent of the vote counted and an Obama lead? And Maine and Connecticut are shown in blue already, but with no results available at all. Seems kinda sloppy to me .. .

Marc Fisher: Those are projections based on exit polling. When exit polls show substantial and clear leads, news organizations base their projections on that information and declare the race. But when polling is close, it's prudent to wait for the official count to see if the actual vote is tracking the exit polling.


Anonymous: If turnout is as high as expected, o you think people will say "the system works" and ideas like weekend voting or making Election Day a day off of work will loose whatever momentum they had?

Marc Fisher: The winners will say the system worked and the loser will, sadly, either grumble about irregularities or, as I've been hearing on talk radio tonight, yammer on about "stolen" elections. It's awful to say, but it appears the age of the graceful concession is slipping away from us.


Four Corners, Md.: Does it favor either candidate the longer states remain "too close to call"?

Marc Fisher: The underdog is always the one who wants the count to go long and late--that's his only hope, of course. An early night goes to the favorite.


Silver Spring MD: Marc -- What's your feeling on the congressional race in Maryland's 1st district, the Harris-Kratovil race? Harris's campaign manager says that "the only (vote) that matters to the Constitution is +1 ... but I think we'll win by more than one vote." (He told that to PolitickerMD.com.) Is the Harris campaign overly sure of themselves in this race? Or does Obama actually have coattails on the Eastern Shore?

It seems that Republican Roscoe Barlett will win re-election. How many cycles do you think it'll take for the Democrats to win in Western Maryland? (Or will they tonight?)

washingtonpost.com: Meekins: 'I think we'll win by more than one vote' (politickermd.com)

Marc Fisher: It's hard to imagine Barlett losing tonight, but the Eastern Shore race should be close. No results in yet, but this is one that could go fairly late.


Slots: I have never been so torn about an election question in my life. I just hate the idea of earning money for the state through gambling. It seems morally wrong. However, I am very active in my kids' pubic school and the recent budget cuts are having a real impact on the schools. More money would be quite helpful. In the end, after much reading, researching and thinking I voted NO but I really cannot see being disappointed if the vote goes the other way. Not sure what that says about me. A little bit I feel like I am having other people do the dirty work and my kids will reap the reward.

Marc Fisher: Sounds like you made the right choice, but I doubt your side will prevail tonight. No numbers yet out of Maryland but both sides on the slots issue tend to agree that the measure will win.

The sad truth is that slots won't necessarily add a single dollar to state education spending. More likely, even if the ambitious goal of $600 million is met, that money would simply free up other dollars for other state priorities. And remember that large portions of each gambling dollar will go to the slots casino operators, and to prop up the state's horse industry.


washingtonpost.com: District of Columbia Board of Elections & Ethics

Marc Fisher: Here's where to check for the latest D.C. numbers.


Washington, DC: Where on this site (or another) can I see updates of the ANC races in DC? Curious about my very local reps. Thanks.

Marc Fisher: The District government won't count the votes for ANC races until Thursday, so if that's what you're waiting for, you can head off to bed!


D.C. Council -- At Large Race: Any sense of when we will have the results for Council races? Tonight or tomorrow?

Marc Fisher: We should see numbers from the District in the next hour or two, but the council race is a special case--because Carol Schwartz is running a write-in campaign, if the number of write-ins is high enough to make a difference in the outcome, those ballots will be counted later--most likely tomorrow, so there wouldn't be a real result until at least then.


Arlington, Va.: Marc, Real Clear Politics has McCain up 57-43 percent in Virginia. Any thoughts, other than "it's early"?

Marc Fisher: That's a wider margin than the exit polling shows, but, as you predicted, I'll stick with "it's early."


Washington, D.C.: What do you think an Obama presidency would do for the prospects of D.C. statehood?

Marc Fisher: Nothing. Just as we heard before Bill Clinton took over the White House, there's lots of noise about how a President Obama would finally put some oomph into efforts to win voting rights for the District. Don't believe a word of it. No president is going to lift a finger for the District, and the let-them-move-elsewhere attitude that is so prevalent in Congress is very much a bipartisan sneering. Remember, the one big, realistic push for a House seat for the District was spearheaded by a Republican, Tom Davis of Fairfax County.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Marc, I just posted a similar comment on Robert's (also superb) chat, but realized maybe it was better suited over here.

Today was my first time voting as a D.C. resident (though I grew up in the burbs here), and what really struck me was less the historic presidential vote, and more the number of races on the ballot that were essentially uncontested races for impotent offices. I had given his very little thought before (embarrassingly), but it is frankly galling, in my view, that full-fledged, taxpaying United States citizens are simply 100 percent shut out of the legislative branch of our government, that every other citizen is entitled to participate in.

Does the Post have a position on D.C. statehood? How is this not a truly fundamental civil rights issue?

Marc Fisher: The state of democracy in the District is grim indeed--uncontested council races in too many wards, a meaningless school board, also infected with uncontested races, and a continuing legacy of congressional interference in everything from the administration of taxi fares to tax and spending policy.

I don't think statehood is necessarily a civil liberties issue, but surely voting rights is, and the District's residents will not have a chance to forge their own way until and unless they have a right to vote in Congress.


Re: Mark and John: Did John Warner ever state who he was voting for in the Senate race?

Marc Fisher: No, John Warner never endorsed Jim Gilmore as his successor. Sen. Warner didn't come out for Democrat Mark Warner either, but his silence spoke volumes. John Warner did contribute to Gilmore's campaign last spring, but after Gilmore came out against the bailout package this fall, John Warner very conspicuously failed to endorse his party's nominee.


Anonymous: Outside of the presidential race, which other national races interest you the most? Minnesota senate? Prop. 8 in California?

Marc Fisher: I'm a big ballot questions and initiatives fan, so I'm watching not only the slots and early voting questions in Maryland, but also the abortion measures in California, South Dakota and Colorado; the anti-affirmative action measures in Colorado and Nebraska; and the same-sex marriage votes in several states.

There are also some interesting votes on cutting state budgets and limiting taxes in several states.


Washington: Marc, you penned a column skeptical of early voting. Given the 2-3 block-long lines at some places in town today, are you having any second thoughts on the issue? Of course it's worth the wait and makes a nice statement, but 2 hour waits have to be a problem for some people.

Marc Fisher: I was surprised and pleased to find that as I interviewed people who had been in line for two or even three hours, not a one complained that there was anything unacceptable about this. To the contrary, they consistently said it was worth the wait.

Obviously, elections should be run as efficiently as possible. And there are good and serious questions to be asked about whether voting machines and polling places are properly allocated. But I am even firmer in my views about early voting now--it's not only unnecessary, but--more important--it's destructive to the remarkable sense of common cause that even political enemies have on Election Day. That spirit of coming together to do democracy's work is a valuable part of our political culture and it would be a shame to see it disappear into yet another piece of atomized daily life.


Dunn Loring, Va.: Have the Post reporters broken out the champagne yet or are they waiting for official confirmation that Obama won?

Marc Fisher: Just as there's no cheering in the press box at sports events, there are no expressions of any political views in a newsroom. I don't know the political views of my colleagues and I don't want to. I do know that most reporters are vastly more interested in the story, no matter where it leads, than in any particular ideology, party or personality.


Four Corners, Md.: Drove by the polling place this morning and saw a line out the door. I went to vote at 4 p.m. this afternoon and my husband at 7 p.m. Both of us had NO ONE in front of us -- literally walked right up and voted.

My husband turned down an opportunity to respond to an exit poll. He said he just didn't feel comfortable sharing his answers.

Marc Fisher: I've never seen an election as frontloaded in the day as this one--nearly everywhere, people came out in droves in the morning, to such an extent that by midday it was clear there would be no PM rush. I guess week upon week of scare reporting about the possibility of long queues and inadequate voting machines did the trick.


Alexandria, Va.: If there appears to be pretty solid evidence that Virginia has muffed the voting process, and the presidential vote in the state ends up close, but Obama wins the rest of the country handily, what happens? I'm assuming there's no recount unless he feels the need to ask for one, right?

Marc Fisher: I don't see any evidence that Virginia has muffed the process. To the contrary, all reports indicate that Virginia voting is going even more smoothly than four or two years ago.

And yes, there's no automatic recount.


Four Corners, Md.: Will we get Election Night results on the two constitutional questions in Maryland? Or is that something we'll have to wait for tomorrow?

Marc Fisher: That should be available tonight, and probably fairly early. Check in here in an hour or so and I'll try to get you the latest numbers.


Virginia: If Obama wins Virginia, combined with the Warner blow out, Webb's win in '06 (which, okay, had some extenuating macacca-induced circumstances) and two consecutive Democratic governors...do you think it's entering a new long-term period of blueness, or that these were a just a cluster of flukey elections?

Marc Fisher: Somewhere in between. Without a doubt, the demographic evolution of Virginia is helping the Democrats, and the enormous increase in the state's minority population is not a good match for the Republicans' emphasis on the illegal immigration issue last year. But Virginia remains an essentially conservative state certainly in fiscal matters, and low taxes are a priority for both parties.

At this point, it looks like Virginia Republicans will have to enter a phase of figuring out a new direction, either a harder affirmation of conservative social values or a tacking to the center. That's the big debate coming up if Obama and Warner win Virginia and if the Republicans lose a couple of House seats as well.


Anonymous: When do you expect we'll be able to call this sucker?

Marc Fisher: I'd be surprised if any responsible news organization will be willing to call it until we see how cleanly actual results are lining up with exit polling data--that is, whether any of the yammering we've heard for the past six months about the Bradley effect or about hidden racism or about a late McCain surge is really true. Once there are real numbers from a few of the battleground states and those numbers can be reliably compared to the exit polling, if the two are well aligned, you'll see some folks start to call the election. My wild guess is that that won't happen until the 10 pm range (Eastern time.)


dividing up the electoral roll in DC: Say - could the Board of Electors divide up the roll to better suit how many people have names beginning with certain letters of the alphabet?

It happens every election time -- those of us who have names beginning with A-D watch as hordes of people who don't pass us by because there are less of them. Please, please, divide up A-B and C-D.

I was standing in the queue next to E-I and in the 10 minutes I was standing in A-D the volunteer at E-I only had 3 people. A lot of the time she just sat there as another volunteer was trying to find people for her. Meanwhile A-D is mobbed.

There are better ways to break up the alphabet.

Marc Fisher: I had exactly this conversation with my daughter as we stood in line this morning. We waited in the E-I queue, which was four times as long as any other chunk of the alphabet's line, and the poor clerk manning the S-Z queue sat there twiddling his thumbs as no one, but no one, showed up for a long stretch of time.

This, again, is a knowable fact: A look at the registration rolls would allow the elections officials to determine which parts of the alphabet have most of the names in that precinct, and they could adjust their division of the alphabet accordingly. But they don't.

Sounds like a project for some college stats class.


Anonymous: Odd question, why is it we rarely see a resume for many folks that run for office? Is political experience comparable with real world employment? I guess the question I am trying to get to is how do we bridge the gap between policy and applied challenges?

Holding office and being involved is one thing but managing a government office, department or agency would offer a world of experience versus simply running for office.

Marc Fisher: Good question--actually, a politician's resume is but a click away. You'll find here on the big web site and on many other sites lots of detail about the voting records of those candidates who already hold office. For novice candidates, you'll find resume data in The Post's voter's guides, which are available online and in print.


Alexandria, Va.: About a year ago I sat next to you at a sushi-making party and told you that Obama was going to get the nomination and win the election. You said he would never beat Hillary Clinton to get the nomination in the first place. Are you ready to eat some crow?

Marc Fisher: I'll certainly cop to not having foreseen Obama's nomination from a year out. But I think your memory is playing tricks on you--as a search of my writings will make clear, I had argued from the very start, well more than a year ago, that there was no way Americans were going to elect Hillary Clinton president.


Washington, D.C.: Marc, thanks for this chat. I voted this morning just after 10. Lines were minimal and everything went smoothly. My only complaint has to do with my local ANC race. I live in Chevy Chase/Tenleytown, the site of a lot of much-discussed NIMBYism. I hate that stuff and wanted to do my part to vote against the NIMBYs, but I tried and tried and couldn't find any information about my current commissioner other than his name. When I got my ballot, two entirely new names were on it, that I knew nothing about. I ended up picking at random, but it made me mad that I had to do that.

Where can a citizen go for information on the ANC process and candidates? I work full-time and go to school part-time, so I can't attend the meetings, but I still want to have some say.

Marc Fisher: Those down-ballot candidates can sometimes be tough to learn about. In my neighborhood, both Advisory Neighborhood Commission candidates knocked on all the doors on my block and gave each voter a good chunk of time to talk about development and other hot issues. In addition, check out your community weekly newspapers--where you live, the Northwest Current did in-depth stories on the ANC races. Those districts are so tiny that a big metropolitan newspaper can't cover each one of those races, but community papers can. Surprisingly, no web startups have come along that take those elections seriously.


washingtonpost.com: 10 Questions For Election Night

Marc Fisher: Here's my list of the 10 questions that tonight's returns may help answer as we look to the political future in Virginia, Maryland and the District.


Laurel, Md.: After hearing stories at work about the long lines people had seen that morning, I was prepared to drive by my polling place and keep driving.

Instead, I was in and out in 10 minutes. (In 2004, I had waited in line 45.)

Marc Fisher: The story I'd love to see reported after this is all over is the dreadful imbalance of voting machines--in some places, lines wrapped around the block while just a few blocks away, there'd be no queue whatsoever. That's a fixable problem, since elections officials know well in advance what the number of registered voters is in each precinct.


Arlington, Va.: What was the state of Virginia's rationale for not providing more voting machines? I stood in line for 90 minutes, because there were only four electronic voting machines at a community center. The elapsed time would have been longer if I didn't fill out a paper ballot.

Marc Fisher: The number of voting machines was sharply increased this year, but probably no one could have predicted this historic turnout far enough in advance to have bought enough machines to eliminate long waits. That said, the long queues were mainly bunched in the early morning hours. By mid-morning, and extending well into the afternoon, the queues were light to non-existent. Indeed, the elections chiefs at several polling places told me that they were stunned by light the traffic was later in the day--everyone was so freaked by the possibility that they'd be shut out if they waited too long that they all voted in the morning!


Northern Virginia: Marc: I'm not a political person, but I wonder -- how do you take your party back? Before Election Day, Warner was up more than 30-points against Gilmore. Maybe they elected not to campaign or even advertise in Northern Virginia (or should I say, communist country) but I did not see one Gilmore ad. I just think it's absurd that the state party essentially chose Gilmore and did not support Tom Davis's desire to compete for the seat. Does ideology trump winning in some cases?

Marc Fisher: It wasn't so much ideology as raw political power that prevailed in the Republicans' choice of Gilmore over Tom Davis for the right to take on (and lose to) Mark Warner. Davis wanted his party to allow a primary, but Gilmore's allies managed to force a convention, which Davis could not win.

But you're absolutely right about the invisibility of the Gilmore campaign, especially in northern Virginia. Driving around today, I saw fields and fields of McCain, Obama and Warner signs but not a single mention of Gilmore, not in the median strips, not outside polling places, nowhere. It was a very strange choice by a party that does indeed seem to have lost its way in a state it had dominated for decades.


Marc Fisher: Just in: The Washington Post has declared that Mark Warner will win his bid for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia, handily defeating his fellow former governor, Jim Gilmore.


Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks, for the first of several hours of discussion here about the presidential race and all local and statewide races in Virginia, Maryland and the District.

Huge turnouts are being reported across the region, and at the dozen or so polling places I visited today, I found a striking number of first-time voters who saw their participation today as more than a civic duty--many people referred to it using almost religious language, talking about this vote being a calling or an act of faith or hope.

But this is now an hour of actual numbers, as the polls have just closed in Virginia. Maryland and the District follow at 8 p.m.

Let's get right to your comments and questions, and please do send along your thoughts about today's voting experience....


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