Some Staffers Remain in Capitol to Watch Election Returns

Posted November 1, 2010 at 4:58pm

Most of the Election Day action will undoubtedly take place out in the field at polling places and street corners, but some Congressional staffers will be hunkering down under the Dome tonight, tightly watching each race.

Clerk of the House Lorraine Miller is keeping some staffers in the office late tonight to monitor election returns, according to a staffer in the House Administration Committee, which oversees the Clerk’s office.

Required by House rules to gather each candidate’s certificate of election from secretaries of state or election officials and prepare the roll of Members-elect, Miller has to make sure the office doesn’t succumb to misleading numbers or erroneous press reports.

To that end, they’ll be pulling information only from official election websites for all 435 races. But they could be waiting until midnight or later for West Coast numbers to come in.

By Wednesday evening, the clerk will post on her website an unofficial list of Members-elect.

‘They’re obviously going to monitor the elections very closely to have as accurate information as possible,’ the staffer said. ‘That’s a rather large undertaking. They don’t want to have any misinformation.’

With just 37 Senate races, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson, who has the same responsibilities in the Senate as Miller has in the House, doesn’t have as daunting a task.

‘It’s been a regular business day for the Secretary of the Senate’s office and we stand ready to receive the certificate of election when the states certify them,’ a spokeswoman for the office said.

Meanwhile, the staff of the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over contested elections, will be up late watching House races, committee staffers said ‘ especially the 100 or so that are competitive.

If a candidate decides to challenge an election or if an election looks to be extremely close, he or she can send a letter to the committee asking them to send an official election observer, usually a volunteer staffer who has been trained by the committee, to make sure there are no improprieties in vote counting in the district.

‘It’s advantageous to the committee that is responsible for adjudicating the contest to have as much knowledge as possible,’ the committee staffer said. ‘Just like any trial, they have to start gathering evidence and making sure that the whole thing has been watched from the earliest possible point.’

Staffers in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which has the same responsibilities as its House counterpart, will not have to stay late.

‘The House has a formal elections monitoring program run through the House Administration Committee, but there is no comparable program in the Senate,’ said Jean Bordewich, the Senate committee’s staff director.