There are 436 politicians who expect to be sworn in for 435 House seats when the 99th Congress convenes on Thursday afternoon.
The odd man out will eventually be either Richard D. McIntyre, the Republican challenger, or Frank McCloskey, the incumbent Democrat.
Each man claims he either won the 8th Congressional District in Indiana on Election Day or captured the seat during the official recounts and re-recounts still going on.
The first round, almost a week after the election, went to McCloskey who declared himself the winner by 72 votes of the 233,700 cast. After ballots were rechecked in one of 15 counties, showing McIntyre ahead by 34, his fellow Republican secretary of state swiftly certified McIntyre the official winner.
Now Democrats, who believe new figures show McCloskey back in the lead by 71 votes, are planning to ask McIntyre to "stand aside" when the rest of the House is sworn in and are threatening to try to marshal the Democratically controlled House to vote in McCloskey, no matter what the official certification paper says.
"As far as we know, it is supposed to be a very uneventful swearing in," said Republican McIntyre. "There is no precedent in history that we know of for the House not swearing in someone who has been certified."
"Obviously what is happening is that the Republicans are playing games here," said Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "I'm not going to sit back and let one Republican secretary of state from Indiana dictate to the House who will or will not be seated."
In the battle over Indiana's 8th, which is reminiscent of the time 20 years ago when two Indiana congressmen were certified for the same seat or almost 40 years ago when three Georgians simultaneously declared themselves governor, the details are murky.
Democrats say a James Bondian brand of politics has been played by the GOP. Republicans, for their part, say Democrats have tossed out Republican ballots for not having precinct numbers, some in precincts that did not have numbers.
Here are but a few of the facts:
While the first election results gave McCloskey the lead, Republicans charged there had been problems in Gibson County. During the recanvass, it was determined that two precincts were counted twice. Once this was corrected, the tide turned, at least in Gibson County, putting Republican McIntyre ahead by 34 votes in the district.
With votes in 14 other counties still untallied in this second round, Republican Secretary of State Edward J. Simcox nevertheless officially certified McIntyre.
Late in the evening of Dec. 13, Simcox sent the certification to Republican Gov. Robert D. Orr, who signed it shortly before midnight at the governor's mansion. One of McCloskey's lawyers called it "the midnight ride," and the Indianapolis Star said the state proffered the seat officially to McIntyre "in the still of the night."
Simcox, who could not be reached, told The Washington Post last month that he certifies winners of all elections in the state "on the basis of certifications by the county clerks of who won in their counties. I have nothing to do with administering recounts." Simcox also told other reporters that if new votes showed the Democrat ahead, he would change the certification.
Last week, vote recounters in Greene County finished, showing McCloskey ahead this time by 71 votes in the district but still leaving eight counties to reexamine their ballots. Lawyers for McCloskey then rushed to the Indiana statehouse to start the process of changing the certification from the Republican to the Democrat.
"When we got to the statehouse," said one of McCloskey's lawyers, Edward DeLaney, "we happened to run into the secretary of state's press secretary who said the deputy was in his office . . . . By the time we got there, however, he was gone, and we learned that he was allegedly ill, or I should say that they said he was ill."
Before the Democratic hopeful's lawyers could get their case before the secretary of state or his assistant, the McIntyre forces filed suit in Greene County, where a judge ruled last Friday that the vote must be counted a third time.
"The one thing you should know about this judge is that he is a Republican," said DeLaney.
Meanwhile, McCloskey said he will be in what is still technically his office Wednesday and will be waiting on Thursday morning when the House begins to decide his political fate. And McIntyre, who says he has not yet rented an apartment in Washington and has no plans to move his family to the capital, said he will be here on Wednesday where he will "start going through the red tape -- getting ID pictures and that sort of thing."
Steven Ross, general counsel to the clerk of the House, said that members could decide to seat McIntyre, seat McCloskey, or give the question to the Committee on House Administration.
After the committee's probe, the House will still have the final say on who won and technicalities of how ballots should be counted.
At any rate, Democrats and Republicans alike say such a course would take weeks, perhaps months. Meanwhile, the 8th District would be represented by the House clerk.