The Indiana secretary of state yesterday declared Republican Richard McIntyre the winner of the 8th Congressional District race over Rep. Frank McCloskey (D-Ind.) by 34 votes out of nearly 233,000 cast. It was the closest election in the country on Nov. 6.
Secretary of State Edward J. Simcox, a Republican, certified a tally showing McIntyre with 116,490 votes to 116,456 for McCloskey. The count was made after a retabulation of the vote in Gibson County, one of 15 in the district. McCloskey initially was thought to have carried Gibson County by 73 votes.
With McIntyre the winner, the lineup of the House of Representatives next month will be 252 Democrats and 183 Republicans.
Democrats cried foul yesterday because recounts are under way in the remaining 14 counties and Simcox said the certification could change as a result.
"His bizarre, political action is obvious," McCloskey said. "Under Indiana law, I should have been certified the winner. His dereliction has transformed the process into a political shambles."
McCloskey can challenge the outcome before the House of Representatives, which has the final say on who is seated. McIntyre will not be seated on Jan. 3 with the other 434 House members unless the recounts are completed, a clerk of the House spokesman said.
Simcox estimated that the recounts probably would not be completed until late January or early February. They were requested by McIntyre in some counties and McCloskey in others.
Both candidates said the recount is likely to be appealed to the House in any event because different counties use different standards in tallying ballots. Some, for example, throw out ballots that are not initialed by poll workers, while others do not.
The Gibson County returns were a retabulation of a computer error in the orginal count rather than a recount, Simcox said.
In two precincts in the county, election workers erroneously entered totals for both candidates twice, he said. Because McCloskey won both precincts the double count showed him carrying the county by 73 votes. After the error, which election officials spotted on the computer readout, was corrected, the Gibson County clerk certified that McIntyre won the county by 34 votes.
"I certify winners of all the elections in the state on the basis of certifications by the county clerks of who won in their counties," Simcox said. "I have nothing to do with administering recounts. That's done by a court in each county."
Democrats accused Simcox of trying to pull a fast one.
Martin Franks, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Democrats went to U.S. District Court Judge Gene Brooks in the 8th district about a week after the election and asked for certification in anticipation of Simcox' action.
"Wouldn't it make sense to wait until all the recounts are completed before certifying a winner?" Franks said. "The judge in effect told him to."
"The time for political gamesmanship is before the votes are cast, not before they're counted," said Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), chairman of the campaign committee. "The people of the 8th district deserve better than the partisanship served up by Mr. Simcox."
Bill Finch, McCloskey's administrative assistant, said he is preparing to appeal.