St. Louis Public Radio News
4:17 pm
Tue November 5, 2002

Missourians, Illinoisans Head to the Polls

St. Louis, MO – Missouri is home to a close race for Senate that could determine control in Congress.

Democratic incumbent Jean Carnahan is facing Republican Jim Talent for the final four years of a term originally won posthumously by Carnahan's late husband, Mel, who died just before the 2000 election.

President Bush appeared at a rally with Talent yesterday in an effort to give the GOP hopeful a last-minute boost.

RACES FOR MISSOURI GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Missourians will also vote in a number of state legislative races that could shift party control in the State House away from Democrats for the first time since the 1940s.

Control of the Missouri State House and Senate is also up for grabs because term limits and redistricting are forcing a lot of races with no incumbents. More than half of Missouri's State Representatives will be newcomers after the election.

In all, 87 of the 163 seats are guaranteed to be won by newcomers. Half of the 34 Missouri Senate seats are up for election today, and there will be at least 12 newcomers in the upper house. Republicans are looking to hold onto their 18-16 majority in the Senate. Democrats hold an 87-76 majority in the House, and observers say redistricting gives Republicans a chance to gain seats there.

Missouri voters will also decide whether to raise cigarette taxes, whether St. Louis should get home rule status, and whether to write a new state Constitution.

ILLINOIS WILL GET A NEW GOVERNOR

Meanwhile, voters in Illinois will elect a new Governor today. Republican Jim Ryan and Democrat Rod Blagojevich are running to replace current Governor George Ryan, who chose not to run for re-election. Recent polls suggest Blagojevich's lead is dwindling.

BATTLE ROYALE IN METRO-EAST

In the Metro-East, voters in the new 19th Congressional district will have their pick of two Congressmen: John Shimkus and David Phelps. The two men were forced to run against each other because of redistricting. It's one of only four races in the nation which pits one incumbent Congressman against another.

HISTORY LOOMS

Back in Missouri, Secretary of State Matt Blunt has sent letters to judges statewide, reminding them they have no authority to keep polls open.

The letters are in response to the 2000 election, in which a judge ordered the polling places in St. Louis open an extra three hours. That judge, Evelin Baker, says there weren't enough election workers to allow thousands of people to vote by the seven o-clock closing time.

St. Louis city employees are working at polling places. A judge yesterday delayed a lawsuit that claimed the workers would be violating their civil service rules and risked losing their jobs.

The extra help is required under an agreement with the federal government. The Justice Department says city election officials improperly turned away voters in November 2000 because of confusion.

PROVISIONAL BALLOTS COULD DELAY RESULTS

An unusual twist in today's Missouri election is due to a new state law. If any election results are extremely close it could end up taking days or weeks to determine a winner.

The new law allows people whose eligibility to vote is questioned to cast provisional ballots. Those votes would be counted only if the person's eligibilty is later verified.

The provisional voting was included in legislation passed this year in response to troubles in St. Louis and Florida in the election two years ago.