Provisional ballots may take weeks to count

Friday, November 1, 2002

WASHINGTON -- It could take days or weeks to declare a winner in the U.S. Senate race in Missouri, which could leave control of the Senate in question for the rest of 2002.

Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan and Republican challenger Jim Talent are running in a close race at the top of the state's ticket. But because of the state's new provisional voting system, which allows voters whose registration is in question to cast a ballot, Secretary of State Matt Blunt warned Thursday it may take time to declare a winner and certify that election.

Because the race is a special election, the victor is usually sworn in immediately, rather than when a new term begins in January, If Talent won, the Democrat's one-vote majority would be in question when the Senate reconvenes for a lame-duck session to finish congressional spending bills and a homeland security bill.

Mrs. Carnahan was appointed to the vacancy created when voters elected Gov. Mel Carnahan three weeks after he died in a plane crash in 2000. Senate vacancies are filled by temporary appointments until the next general election, and Mrs. Carnahan and Talent are seeking the final four years of the term.

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