The contested Indiana election, decided after six months by four votes, was almost an easy call compared with the Guam election for nonvoting delegate, where the incumbent still is seeking a recount.
Former delegate Antonio B. Won Pat (D-Guam) will appear before a special hearing of the House Administration Committee Wednesday to charge "substantial irregularities" in the Guam elections last November. Won Pat and his lawyers will seek to block a motion by Republican Ban Blaz, the sitting delegate from Guam, to dismiss Won Pat's request for a runoff.
Won Pat's attorney, James G. O'Hara, says that shortly after a local radio station predicted a narrow victory for Won Pat, the electricity went out at only one place on the island: Guam's election headquarters, where the votes were being counted.
Two hours later, with the power restored, Won Pat had lost his first election as delegate by 323 votes out of more than 31,000.
The next day, according to O'Hara, the election commission found 217 more votes. Of these, 114 were for Blaz, 83 were for Won Pat and the rest were for other candidates.
Three subsequent recounts found Won Pat the loser, by amounts varying from 354 to 368 votes.
Blaz and his staff insist that the election was neither corrupt nor fraudulent.
"It would be truly naive of me to say it was a perfect election," said Blaz's lawyer, Jack Rosenzweig. He attributed the election-night problems to the inexperience of a new executive director of the Guam Election Commission and the use of new computer equipment.
"Our position is that there is very little merit to Won Pat's complaint," Rosenzweig said. "The reason the election commission had so many counts was because they wanted to be sure they had the winner."
Under the 1972 federal law establishing the position, the Guam delegate must capture a majority of votes cast. If no candidate receives a majority, then a runoff is supposed to be held.
A voting congressman need only receive a plurality of votes. In the contested Indiana election, the 8th Congressional District race was decided by four votes out of more than 200,000, after the House set up a special investigating panel and then voted along partisan lines to seat the winner designated by the panel.
In the Guam contest, Won Pat contends that some absentee ballots were excluded illegally, other ballots arrived at the election center from polling centers without being properly escorted by local officials and, in any event, neither candidate received a majority of votes.
In papers filed with the House Administration Committee, Blaz argues that Won Pat had waited too long to complain, that Blaz won the election by a majority, and that the law does not grant relief unless the loser can show he is entitled to the delegate's seat.
Won Pat, the first delegate elected to represent Guam, now works out of his home near Washington, attending House committee meetings and conferring with Guam officials.
"Whatever is decided," he said recently, "I am resigned to accept that decision and continue to work for my constituents as usual."