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CNN NEWSROOM

Close Races Draw to a Close; Voters Report Polling Problems; Voters in Colorado, Illinois Ask for Extended Voting Hours

Aired November 7, 2006 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CO-HOST: ... and tip the balance of power on Capitol Hill. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs today. At least three-dozen Republican House are considered at risk.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CO-HOST: Democrats are hoping to win at least 15 of those seats to regain control of the House for the first time since 1994. Pundits say that's a good bet.

LEMON: And the Senate may be a safer bet for Republicans. Seven GOP seats are considered vulnerable and possibly two Democratic seats, as well. To take control, Democrats will have to hold on to those seats and take six of the GOP seats. Many analysis -- or analysts believe that's a long shot, but it's possible.

PHILLIPS: CNN has deployed its correspondents and vast resources across the country, from New York to Texas to Montana. Buckle up, as we kick off this election day coverage from the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, it's been ugly, it's been nasty, and finally, mercifully, some would say, the Virginia Senate race is coming to a bitter end. Republican Senator George Allen has been going back and forth with Democrat James Webb for months now.

Our Ed Henry joins us from Richmond. He's been caught up in the middle of all of this.

Hey, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon.

Again, Kyra, you're right; the excitement building here in Virginia. This is one of the most closely watched Senate battles. So much at stake: nothing short of the control of the United States Senate, as you've been noting.

And what we're hearing is there's a lot of enthusiasm out there on both sides. Turnout, extremely heavy all across this commonwealth this morning. At the polling places, both candidates turning out and voting for themselves.

But also absentee ballots, we're told from the state board of elections in 2002 there were only 44,000 absentee ballots. In 2006 now, a comparable midterm election year, 131,000 absentee ballots have been requested. Not everyone will actually file those. But, still, a sharp increase over 2002. As you noted, this has been one of the pastiest races. A lot of people happy that it will be over. Republican Senator George Allen battling allegations of racism. The Democrat, Jim Webb, battling allegations of sexism. Jim Webb joking this morning after he voted he can't wait to have a beer when it's over, and then he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very, very proud that we ran a clean campaign. I mean, that's one of the two things that I said at the beginning of this. One was that I wasn't going to trade anything that I believe in order to get a vote or to get money, and the other was I was not going to engage in the same sort of campaigning that, in my view, has characterized the Karl Rove era and has sort of dragged the country down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now the campaign of the incumbent, George Allen, sharply disputes that. They feel that this campaign has been dirty, that most of the attacks have come from the Democratic side. Of course, you're going to hear those charges hurled back and forth in a lot of these races.

But what's interesting about George Allen, I was at his last rally last night heading into election day. Only 250 people there in Richmond. Jim Webb, the Democrat, he had some 5,000 to 6,000 at a rally with former president, Bill Clinton.

But what George Allen's campaign is banking on, in part, is the fact that there is a state ban on same-sex marriage, a constitutional amendment, on the state ballot. They think that will help boost conservative turnout. Take a listen to the senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. I'm voting for that amendment. My opponent is not. And I think the vast majority of Virginians believe that the Marriage Protection Amendment needs to be put into law so federal judges, nor -- or any judge, does not take away our rights and our values from us. So let's stand strong for the family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, this one of many states where people in both parties taking a look at whether there will be irregularities, whether there will be voter suppression. Allegations flying all around.

CNN is being told by law enforcement sources that the FBI is now looking at allegations that there have been several phone calls aimed at trying to suppress voters from actually showing up at the polls here in Virginia.

The Democratic campaign of Jim Webb, in particular, has been raising allegations about phone calls. One in particular: they had a voice mail where a Democratic voter got a call that -- where someone claimed they were calling from the board of elections here in the state and claimed that this voter was registered in both Virginia and New York. And he was told in this call if he showed up to vote, he would be arrested.

The state board of elections says they made no such call. This voter says he's not registered to vote in both states. So now the FBI taking a look at that -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ed Henry, live from Richmond, Virginia. Thanks, Ed.

HENRY: Thank you.

LEMON: Campaign season in Missouri has seen a little bit of everything. That includes a celebrity TV ad that only inflamed what was already a barn burner of a Senate race. Democrat Claire McCaskill is in a showdown with Republican incumbent Jim Talent.

Our Jonathan Freed is in St. Louis -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's very much a showdown, and it has been a tight race here for as long as anybody can remember in political terms. And in political terms, a day can be an eternity.

And everybody here is focusing on turnout right now, what's expected to be very large, not just because of the effect that this very heated race, Senate race is having, but also because of a ballot initiative that would empower more stem cell research in this state.

So you kind of have two campaigns that have been running in tandem, and they're intermingling. And everybody is waiting to see what effect that is going to have, not just on turnover, but how the stem cell question will spill over, and which candidate might it help more than the other.

Both of them have taken pretty clear positions on it. The Democrat is saying that she is for the research. The Republican here, Jim Talent, is saying that he is personally against it but he feels that people need to make up their own minds.

LEMON: And Jonathan, this isn't the first time that these candidates have been in such a tight race, is it?

FREED: No, it's not the first time. Both of them are used to this. And we were talking to both of their campaigns about that and about their mindset, heading into a squeaker like this one.

Both of them were separately, not in the same year, running for governor where it came down to the wire there, as well. And what the camps are telling us is that they're relatively relaxed, relatively speaking, in a case like this, that they've been there before, and they're prepared to wait for everything to be counted. No one's getting too anxious.

LEMON: OK, Jonathan Freed in St. Louis, Missouri, thank you so much for that.

PHILLIPS: Well, in Tennessee, one candidate is trying to make history. Another is trying to help his party retain his seat, now held by the Senate majority leader.

Republican Bob Corker is a former mayor who wants to succeed Bill Frist in the Senate. Democrat Harold Ford would be the first ever African-American ever popularly elected to the Senate from the south.

Our Joe Johns is in Memphis. He joins us by phone -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kyra.

That's right; we started out today in Memphis. The weather is at least, part of the story in Tennessee at the moment. The skies are overcast. There was drizzle this morning. Of course, rain is thought to effect turnout. Both sides, of course, believing that turnout is going to be the key, whichever way this tight race goes.

There have been some reports of morning problems with voting machines. But there is also a report that at least some of those problems had been fixed. Trying to get more on that.

One of the standard pictures from a campaign that we don't get today is that picture you always see of the candidates voting for himself -- herself, whatever, on election day. That's because both of the candidates already have voted.

And there is at least some speculation that nearly half of the people voting in the election have already voted, even before election day rolled around.

Nonetheless, both candidates, Democrat Harold Ford and Republican Bob Corker, were visiting polling places. I saw Congressman Ford at a polling place in Memphis this morning. He was expressing concerns about the reports of glitches with the voting machines, said the campaign's lawyers were raising complaints.

Ford, about now, heading out to Jackson, Tennessee, outside of Memphis, having lunch. Corker is expecting to finish up in Chattanooga tonight. And he, also, headed out to visit some polling places in the state, as well -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: The historical aspect, if Harold Ford win, Joe. Are people talking a lot about that, and the diversity issue?

JOHNS: Yes, I mean, especially here in Memphis. Of course, Memphis is the place where the congressional district of Harold Ford is located. So a lot of people are talking about that, the notion that he would be the first African-American from the South since Reconstruction in the United States Senate.

Harold Ford himself, he's very much run as a centrist, and he's been very careful to try to appeal to all voters in his own way. So one time when I asked him about it, it was kind of interesting. He said, "Look, in Tennessee, black guys are undefeated. They haven't had any wins, and they haven't had any losses." So we'll see what turns out here.

One thing for sure, a lot of people have high expectations in this part of the South, this part of the state. And when you look up toward the east of Tennessee, that is where the Corker campaign is headquartered. Corker, of course, is the former mayor of Chattanooga.

In that part of the state, people are also very energized, because they see Corker's campaign as a way to sort of put up a fire wall against Democrats in the United States Senate. This is the seat being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. And a lot of Republicans are really hoping to hang on to it, area.

PHILLIPS: Congressional correspondent Joe Johns. Thanks, Joe.

JOHNS: You bet.

LEMON: Congressional race in Illinois has grabbed national headlines for a couple of reasons. One, the seat hasn't been open in more than 30 years. Also it features an Iraq war veteran who is running against the war and also running against the White House.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim is in Elmhurst, Illinois -- Keith.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don.

And that Iraq war veteran is Tammy Duckworth. And she has made this race very interesting.

First of all, let me explain that the Sixth Congressional District of Illinois, west of Chicago, has been held by Congressman Henry Hyde for 32 years. The Republican candidate, Peter Roskam, is conservative. He's a state senator who's been pushing conservative themes in a district that tends to lean to the right.

Then, after the Democratic primary, along comes Tammy Duckworth. It was two years ago this month that Tammy Duckworth's helicopter in Iraq was struck by a grenade. She lost both of her legs. She returned to the United States as a double amputee.

And so when this lady speaks about a gradual withdrawal of troops from Iraq, she clearly does so with some credibility.

So, Don, a race that seemed to be moving for Republicans in the beginning of this contest is now too close to call.

LEMON: And Keith, credibility, when it comes to the war, but what about elected office?

OPPENHEIM: She has never held office before. He's been in the Illinois legislature for 13 years, both the Senate and the state house. So he brings a lot of political experience. She's a novice. But her compelling story has made her on par with him, at least as of the time I'm speaking now.

LEMON: All right, Keith Oppenheim in Elmhurst, Illinois, thank you, sir. PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, problems at the polls. Our Ali Velshi keeping tabs on precincts around the nation. We're going to check in with him.

LEMON: Rain, a flooding, soggy mess. Weather plays a role at the polls. That's coming up, in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: When it comes to national politics or lots of other things, for that matter, Montana is usually, often overlooked. But not this year. That state has about 600,000 registered voters. And the two candidates for Senate has spent more than, get this, $12 million. Or that's about 20 bucks per voter.

Republican incumbent Conrad Burns is in the fight of his political life against Democrat Jon Tester.

And our Chris Lawrence is in Billings, in the middle of it all -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, when those polls close in other battleground states like Missouri and Virginia, they'll still be casting their ballots here. And around half a million voters could swing the entire Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): As polls close in battleground states across the country, control of the Senate could come down to a last stand in the old west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see where Jon Tester called cutting taxes ridiculous?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, old Tester even voted for higher taxes on my pickup.

LAWRENCE: Instead of a gunfight at high noon, it's attack ads, 24/7. They paint Democrat Jon Tester as a high taxer; Republican Conrad Burns an incumbent who sold out to lobbyists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We like having a senator we can count on. We gave Conrad's campaigns $546,000.

LAWRENCE: Montana is a land of windmills and wheat fields. Fewer than a million people live here. But just five days before the election, the president himself came calling.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats are going to attack whoever they can find and we're not going to let them, because we're going to put Conrad Burns back in the United States Senate.

LAWRENCE: Burns accused Tester of raising taxes on 15,000 small businesses. But that's not really true. Tester voted to freeze the tax rate at 3 percent, rather than allow an economic trigger to kick in, which would have phased out the tax altogether. But that would have cost Montana schools millions of dollars in funding.

SEN. CONRAD BURNS (R), MONTANA: I don't think that there's very many tax bills that he's not liked. He's voted on a lot of them.

LAWRENCE: Tester reminds voters that Burns took $150,000 in donations from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

JON TESTER (D), MONTANA SENATE CANDIDATE: That's the difference. You're helping your K Street lobbyists; I help the middle class.

LAWRENCE: What he doesn't mention, Burns gave away that money after the scandal broke.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: In fact, Burns said Abramoff had no influence on his decisions whatsoever. Democrats say Burns is the perfect example of the culture of corruption there in Washington -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Chris Lawrence in Billings, Montana, thank you, sir.

PHILLIPS: On this election day, Ali Velshi has got issues. We're not talking person ones -- well, I am. Our show isn't long enough for that. But we mean voting issues. Ali's tracking -- that's one of those -- ha, ha, I'm going to kill you later, Kyra. Ali's tracking them at the problem desk in New York.

You're so good at running the problem desk, because you're such a problem...

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we call it -- by the way, we call it the voter irregularity desk. And there have been all sort of jokes about that. So I'd rather you talk about me having issues than being a regular guy or whatever it is.

PHILLIPS: Oh, boy. This is going down fast.

VELSHI: See, the problems -- and there are tons of them, partially because it's a big country and lots of people are voting. But we've asked a lot of people to submit some of their concerns after they've reported them to the authorities, to us at CNN.com using iReport.

We're getting a lot of issues that are sent to us, and then we confirm them independently.

We're not getting a lot of pictures and video, because I guess people can't really take a lot of pictures and videos. But we do get some. But people have problems, tell them to send them to us.

They come into sort of two categories, Kyra. One of them is voting machines not doing what people want them to do, either delays getting them started or not working properly. The other main issue that we're getting a lot of concerns about is the fact that in this year, so many different states have new regulations about identification for voters that people are getting confused.

And it's not just regular folks. I mean, we've got people -- we've got all sorts of people e-mailing us with concerns.

In Arizona, someone was turned away, even though they had a U.S. passport because the law there calls for an address, and a passport doesn't have an address printed in it.

But in South Carolina -- I think we probably still have this video -- the governor went to vote and...

PHILLIPS: He got turned away?

VELSHI: He didn't have -- he didn't have the suitable identification. And there's video of him sort of leafing through -- there he is. He's leafing through his wallet, trying to find out, you know...

PHILLIPS: So he didn't vote?

VELSHI: He went back to vote, subsequently, we're told. But at this -- this juncture, where the camera was here, he didn't. He had to leave.

PHILLIPS: How can you deny the governor? You know who the governor is.

VELSHI: Well, whoever was running that poll decided that they are going to stick to the rules. And the problem is the rules are different all over the place. We have a report of a congressman in Ohio having similar problems. In fact, we're getting a lot of that sort of thing. So...

PHILLIPS: So there is no standard mode of I.D.? OK, every state...

VELSHI: No, that's the problem.

PHILLIPS: Can you go on your state's web site and...

VELSHI: Yes, yes.

PHILLIPS: OK.

VELSHI: Go to the state board of electors or look up the state -- the secretary of state in your state and just find out.

And, frankly, if you've got the I.D., take it with you. There are two things people want. Some states want photo I.D.s, and some states want something that has an address on it. So just -- you know, because who wants to wait in a line and then be turned away?

PHILLIPS: You know, I thought I had issues with my squirrels in the attic.

VELSHI: Little did you know, you have issues with squirrels in democracy.

I have a correction to make, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK.

VELSHI: As you may have heard earlier, I discussed some problems in Colorado with some laptops, and I associated it with a squirrel. In fact, there were problems in Colorado with laptops having to do with voting. It had nothing to do with a squirrel.

The squirrel in question, a rogue squirrel in question, was, in fact in Oklahoma where -- in a place called Frederick, Oklahoma, 5,000 to 6,000 people. The only complaint that the guy who runs elections there has heard was that a rogue squirrel has caused a power outage across the city, affecting a total of three precincts.

PHILLIPS: You know...

VELSHI: One of the precincts in a fire station, which is not affected because it has a backup generator.

PHILLIPS: I'll tell you right now, those squirrels can eat through anything.

VELSHI: Yes. But don't call them rogue squirrels, because people are getting mad at that.

PHILLIPS: All right. We'll be nice to the squirrels.

VELSHI: We do have -- yes, but there are a number of issues. We're continuing to follow them. And obviously, as the day gets further on, Kyra, we'll have some -- some more specifics as we check them out.

PHILLIPS: We'll keep checking in. Thanks, Ali.

LEMON: You've got problems with squirrels. Who's getting them out of your attic? Not just your...

PHILLIPS: That's right. I did call you in, didn't I, at 2 a.m.?

LEMON: "I've got a squirrel in my attic." All right.

PHILLIPS: And you didn't find him, by the way.

LEMON: Oh, well.

PHILLIPS: Moving on.

LEMON: Connecticut's ballot, a familiar name in a different spot.

Plus, a new face. Who will voters choose? That race ahead, in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: There may be a reason they call it the graveyard shift. Researchers at the University of Virginia tinkered with the waking and sleeping cycles of mice with eye-opening results.

They found that shifting daylight back by six hours was not only harmful but deadly for older mice, killing more than half of them in eight weeks. Younger mice were apparently not affected.

Scientists believe that forcing changes in the body's circadian rhythms leads to sleep deprivation, which suppresses the immune system.

LEMON: The stock market has been on a roll recently. So which party would prolong that rally? Susan Lisovicz joins us from the New York Stock Exchange to tell us, it may not make that much of a difference.

And welcome back. We certainly missed you, Susan.

(STOCK REPORT)

All right, Susan, we'll talk again. Well, the race for the seat once held by Congressman Mark Foley is one of the big battles today in Florida. Coming up in the NEWSROOM, we'll be talking about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Laura and I know it's a privilege to be able to cast our vote. And I encourage all Americans to vote today. We live in a free society. And our government is only as good as the willingness of our people to participate in it.

And, therefore, no matter what your party affiliation, or if you don't have a party affiliation, do your duty, cast your ballot, and let your voice be heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Boy, he's chipper in the morning, right? That was President Bush, up early this morning, to cast his ballot in Texas. He and the first lady voted at a fire station near their ranch in Crawford.

After months of trying to tell Americans how to vote, today he simply urged us all to vote, regardless of party affiliation, or lack thereof. He returns to the White House this afternoon to watch those returns.

Let's head straight to the NEWSROOM now.

T.J. Holmes, details on a developing story in Colorado. T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM: Don't want to hear this, but we got some more issues with voting. And some of the polling stations -- was going to show you some video. Some long lines we've been seeing in the Denver area.

Now there are a couple different reasons being given for some of the delays. We got long lines being formed in several areas around the Denver area. As many as 300 people lined up trying to vote.

Now, election officials say the problem has been, it is at a couple locations, power failure. Now, the power failure does not affect some of those -- you know, the electronic voting machines, because those have backup power, so that's not really causing the problem.

The problem is, a lot of the poll workers are using laptops so they can check the registration of people there who are trying to vote, so they're having some issues.

This isn't some of the video, or the best video, we were hoping to show you with long lines, but just keeping an eye on something else here, I'm going to continue to monitor this and bring you any updates.

They are starting to give us a shot we were hoping to see here, of those long lines. Really hundreds of people, up to 300 people in line. Yes, check them out there. Unless Denver, in Colorado, they've got a long ballot; 14 initiatives that people are having to pick from, as well. So that takes time.

LEMON: They're staying in there a while, right?

HOLMES: Yes, they're going to be standing there awhile, be in there a while, trying to vote. But it doesn't help, certainly, with some of the problems. We're watching that for you.

LEMON: If you're watching in Colorado, bring your coat and your galoshes or boots or whatever you need because you'll be waiting a while. We wish them luck. Thank you, T.J.

PHILLIPS: Well, he was kicked to the curb in the Democratic primary. But Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman has rebounded as an independent in his race against Democrat Ned Lamont, and Republican Alan Schlesinger. Dan Lothian is tracking that showdown in Hartford.

Hey, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, Kyra. Well, the secretary of state's office says the voter turnout has been consistently strong so far this morning, between 25 and 30 percent, could be as high as 66 percent. Voters deciding whether or not to return an incumbent to a fourth term, or elect a political newcomer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice over): Joe Lieberman may be the odds-on favorite, running as an Independent, but he's still sprinting to the finish line.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I-CT) SENATE CANDIDATE: I don't want my supporters to think that this is over. And they're going to stay home, or decide they want to throw a vote to somebody else for some symbolic reason.

LOTHIAN: Meeting with workers at a utility company, Lieberman painted his Democratic opponent, Ned Lamont, as a one-issue candidate, and a partisan polarizer.

LIEBERMAN: It does get in the way of us getting something done for you, the people.

LOTHIAN: Lamont, a wealthy businessman who beat Lieberman in the August Democratic primary, put in the final miles of his campaign bus tour, trying to convince voters he's the right candidate for real change.

NED LAMONT, (D) SENATE CANDIDATE: Look at the crowds that are coming out. People fundamentally want a real change in how we're doing business in Washington.

LOTHIAN: Speaking to union workers, Lamont returned to the central theme of his campaign, the war in Iraq.

LAMONT: This war is wrong. It's hurting our country at home, it's hurting our country abroad. It's time to bring our troops home.

LOTHIAN: The Republican in this Senate race, Alan Schlesinger has not been a major factor. That, say political analysts, has helped Lieberman, who is attracting support from Republicans.

PROF. KEN DAUTRICH, UNIV. OF CONNECTICUT: He's identified as a Democrat, but an independent Democrat. So, his voice rises above partisan politics.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: One interesting note, Lieberman's name, because he's an Independent, appears at the very bottom of the ballot. He's been on the campaign trail, reminding voters where to find him. We haven't heard of any problems there. But it will be interesting to find out if there's any confusion, and if it does impact the final count -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: When we talk about Lieberman running as an independent, will he have an allegiance to a party?

LOTHIAN: He says he is still a Democrat, he holds no hard feelings. But he says, what this race has taught him is he must continue to be an independent thinker. He says, when, if, indeed, he does return to Washington, he thinks he'll be embraced by both Democrats and Republicans.

PHILLIPS: Dan Lothian, in Hartford, Connecticut. Thanks, Dan.

LEMON: And if you want election year intrigue, which state do you go to? You go to Florida. This year is no exception. Our John Zarrella is keeping track of the controversial congressional race in Jupiter, at the tip end of the 22nd District.

What's going on, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM: Now, Don, why would you disparage Florida like that?

LEMON: I'm not disparaging Florida.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: I'm not. But you know there is some intrigue there. We all remember the election. You know, hanging chads and so forth.

ZARRELLA: Oh, there certainly. There is always intrigue. That's right, there always is.

I can tell you, five weeks ago, here in the 16th Congressional District, it's not likely that anybody outside of the state of Florida probably knew where the 16th Congressional District was.

Then after the Mark Foley scandal broke, many experts said there was no way the Republicans could hold on to control, which they've had for 25 years in this district.

Well, times have changed. In four short weeks, this has become a real battle between the Republicans and the Democrats. And both candidates are now claiming, when all is said and done, they're going to be the winner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA (voice over): In the final hours before election day, Republican Joe Negron campaigned for votes at a busy intersection. A month ago Negron's political future intersected with the political demise of Congressman Mark Foley.

Hand picked by the Republican Party to replace Foley, many experts felt there was no way Negron could overcome the congressional page scandal. But in four weeks, Negron has gone from no shot, to long shot, to a real shot.

JOE NEGRON, (R) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is a conservative district. We want change, but we want a conservative change. That's one reason that I think this campaign has really taken off.

ZARRELLA: In a district encompassing eight counties, from the West Coast to the East Coast, Negron, and his Democratic opponent Tim Mahoney, have put in a lot of miles.

TIM MAHONEY, (D) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm Tim Mahoney. I'm running for Congress.

ZARRELLA: Mahoney has seen his double-digit lead evaporate, but still believes people will vote for change. MAHONEY: If you think that we can do better, if you think we can work together better in Washington; we can restore our values? I'm the person that's going to go up there and make those changes.

ZARRELLA: Bottom line, this election is much likely to be closer than either party thought just a month ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: Now, it's been quiet here at this polling station in the last hour or so, but it was steady for the most part during the day. But no long lines. A lot of that may be attributable to the fact we have early voting in the state of Florida. And the supervisors of elections in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties are reporting that about 12 percent of registered voters took advantage of early voting, or absentee voting here in Florida.

And the secretary of state's office, Don, reporting that no major glitches so far here on election day at any of the precincts -- Don.

LEMON: Hey, John Zarrella, we were talking about intrigue. Here is a little bit of intrigue, when you go and vote, and voters there go to vote, Mark Foley's name is still on the ballot so they can't help but think about it. Is it causing any confusion? Maybe not. But like I said, you can't help but think about what happened.

ZARRELLA: Oh, no question about it, his name is on the ballot. I guess if you're the Republicans, you're hoping it's not causing any confusion. What happened was that you could take a look at the Palm Beach county ballot, the electronic ballot.

This is what the voters are seeing. They see Mark Foley's name there. Republicans have said all along they believe the people here are sophisticated enough to figure it out. They actually have made somewhat of a little campaign slogan out of it, that -- and they say, "Punch Foley for Negron".

And if voters do still have a problem, they can ask one of the supervisors at the polling places and they will be handed a sheet of paper which tells them a vote for Foley is a vote for Negron, a vote for Mahoney is a vote for Mahoney, so hopefully the confusion is alleviated -- Don.

LEMON: Yes, and I'm sure people are sophisticated enough to figure it out. Thank you, John Zarrella.

ZARRELLA: Exactly.

PHILLIPS: You vote, they watch. Federal observers at the polls that story straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: And join us tonight for the races, the results, and the ramifications. CNN election "Prime Time" begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn, and Lou Dobbs lead the best political team on television as your votes are counted.

And our coverage continues with a special edition of "Larry King Live" at midnight. Here from winners and losers across the country; plus expert analysis, only on CNN, America's campaign headquarters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: He's tracking the trouble, Ali Velshi, what's going on in Colorado?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM: Looks like we've just heard from the director of communications for the Colorado Democratic Party.

The party is citing what they call huge problems in Denver this morning in voting. So lawyers for the Democratic Party in Colorado have told us they are en route to the district court to file a request for a two-hour extension in voting, in all of Denver County.

They're talking about severe problems relating to the polls when they opened this morning. They said the poll books, which show the names of registered voters, were not ready and as a result there were long lines. A lot of people left without voting, because the sites ran out of provisional ballots.

Now, we are tracking this because so far Indiana is the only state, Delaware County, in Indiana, around Muncie, is the only state to have been granted a court order to extend it polling until 8:45 p.m. tonight.

So, we're going to track this so we have a sense of where polling is actually delayed, as a result of things that people are concerned about.

We've had, as we discussed, many examples, Kyra, of people being turned away because of incorrect identification and a lot of complaints about delays or things going on with voting machines. But we're not seeing a lot of counties, or certainly states requesting extensions in voting time. That may happen later in the night. So far, we've got Indiana on the books. We now have this situation in Colorado, which we're following closely.

PHILLIPS: We'll talk to you again, probably about 30 minutes. Sound good?

VELSHI: Yep, we'll check back with you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Ali.

LEMON: Dangling, hanging, pregnant, remember those, the chads of 2000. This year, new election technology may solve some of the mechanical problems, but it may cause problems of its own, as may human error, or misbehavior. That's why the feds have unleashed a pack of watchdogs to stand close guard. Very interesting. CNN's Kelli Arena has more on that, from Washington.

Tell us all about it?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM: A record number of watchdogs.

The Justice Department dispatched more than 850 federal observers and federal monitors to 22 states and their job is to watch this midterm election. But DOJ isn't commenting publicly on any of the allegations that we've heard Ali talk about of possible violation of voting rights.

They do remind voters that civil rights lawyers are manning a hotline. I think we have that number. It's 1-800-253-3931. Justice Department Hotline, lawyers on standby for any questions or complaints. The goal here is to make sure those who can vote and actually show up at the polls get to do just that, without any problems.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: 1964. The murder of three young voting rights activists in Mississippi, made famous in the movie "Mississippi Burning" led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Remarkably, four decades later, the kind of discrimination they were trying to stop still threatens U.S. elections in some places. Prompting the Justice Department to dispatch more than 800 election observers and monitors, the most ever.

WAN KIM, U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: It's very effective in the sense that not only are they there to help guard against possible abuses, they're there to help correct problems on the ground, if they occur.

ARENA: One concern in states with tight races, there could be more incentive for mischief. Wan Kim leads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

KIM: Obviously, the tighter the race is, the more heated the rhetoric becomes and sometimes the more flagrant violations may occur there.

ARENA: Activists urged DOJ to be particularly aggressive in places like California where letters were mailed to Hispanic immigrants, telling them they could to jail if they voted.

JULIE FERNANDES, LEADERSHIP CONF. ON CIVIL RIGHTS: We had testimony from all over the country. People talking about examples of purposeful, intentional discrimination against black, Latino, and Native Americans, Asian voters.

ARENA: Civil Rights activist Julie Fernandes, says discrimination these days, more subtle. But the motives, the same.

FERNANDES: We've seen examples of that, where Anglo voters, in some jurisdictions, are told, I know you. You don't need your I.D. Come on in, Bob. But the Latino voters are asked, are you a citizen? Where is your picture I.D.? It's that kind of discrimination in how the laws are implemented.

ARENA: While a record number of DOJ monitors will be watching. Voters should not even know they're there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: The trick here is for those observers and monitors to remain anonymous. Monitors don't want to be intimidating because actually that's what they're there to prevent. Right? So, if they see a violation, they're instructed to immediately report it to a supervisor who will then alert local election officials, and try to deal with that problem immediately -- Don.

LEMON: And the FBI is involved in all of this, right?

ARENA: That's right. FBI headquarters also isn't commenting on any election irregularities at this point. But it does have jurisdiction to conduct investigations if something goes wrong. The Bureau has for the first time election coordinators at all -- every one of its 56 field offices.

Those people are designated to take complaints look into potential violations of federal voting laws, not state, federal voting laws, and then start an investigation if they think one is warranted.

LEMON: Kelli Arena, thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: An open Senate seat in Maryland, one of the big races that could change the balance power in Washington.

LEMON: Plus, let's talk weather. Rain, flooding. It is a soggy mess. The weather will play a role at the polls. That's coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: The president and first lady, arriving back to Washington, D.C., of course, to follow election day and all the numbers and tallies that come in, later on this evening. As you know, they voted while they were in Crawford, Texas, today, not far from the ranch. They went down the road, cast their votes. Now back safely in D.C.

LEMON: All right, let's move on, talk about the weather. We'll keep a close eye on the president.

The rain is easing, but the damage is done. Record flooding across western Washington State. Quickly rising rivers caught hundreds of people in low-lying areas by surprise. Some drivers, too, were caught by surprise.

This man, one of them, take a look. He had to crawl on top of his car while he waited for the National Guard to rescue him. The governor has already declared states of emergency in 18 counties. Look at that.

It is a soggy election day for some of us. Rob Marciano is in our Weather Center.

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Well, Rialto, finito, or almost. Overnight, firefighters in Southern California got the upper hand on the Rialto blaze. Which this time yesterday was threatening hundreds of homes. It destroyed a lumber yard and caused about $1 million in damage. So far as we know, no one was hurt. The fire was started from sparks and hot metal from a welding crew working on nearby Interstate 15.

LEMON: A big Senate battle in New Jersey. It could help tilt the balance of power on Capitol Hill, that's coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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