Melissa Bean is going back to Washington on Monday.
Whether the three-term Democratic Congresswoman from
Illinois goes back in January…is still undecided.

“We had all hoped the county clerks would have completed
their work by now,” said Bean during a conference call with
reporters.

“The reality is that we're still waiting them to count outstanding
ballots, roughly fifteen-hundred, so that we could determine
the outcome the 8th district congressional election.”

So, Bean will return to DC for work in the so-called ‘Lame Duck
Session’ of Congress and wait for reports on absentee and
provisional ballots to be counted in Cook, Lake and McHenry
counties.

Republican challenger Joe Walsh leads but by just 347-votes
out of over 180,000 ballots cast in early voting and votes cast
on Election Day. The totals for now are:

Walsh Bean
97,581 97,234

But while Bean refers to 1,500 outstanding votes, that the maximum
if every absentee ballot were returned. That seems impossible.
For an absentee ballot to be counted, it must be postmarked by
November 1st (the day before Election Day) or earlier (and must
arrive by November 16th).

Those ballots are only arriving in very small numbers now a week
and a half after the postmark deadline.

“We had zero today,” said McHenry County Clerk Kathy Schultz.
Lake County had three arrive by mail today. Between the two counties,
a total of 632 absentees will be opened Tuesday, November 16th.

What encourages Bean is what has happened so far with
absentees in Cook County. For several days after the election,
officials there were opening and counting absentee votes
as they arrived by mail. Bean took 324 of these early opened
absentees while Walsh got only 140.

“With every count the tally has narrowed and the gap has narrowed
and roughly 70% of the absentee ballots counted since Election Day
have been cast in my favor,” said Bean.

Earlier this week, Cook County stopped the practice of counting
absentees and is now holding them and this evening reports it has 209
absentee ballots it will count on the 16th. 174 of these absentees are
described as “military/overseas” ballots.

There is also the question of Cook County’s 216 provisional ballots
in the 8th district. Provisional ballots are generally given to people
at polling places whose voting eligibility cannot be immediately determined.
The votes are examined later. If election officials determine the voter
is eligible, the vote is counted.

In most cases, provisional ballots are tossed out. Cook County reports
on average about 23% of provisional ballots are actually counted.
But the more provisional ballots that get in, the lower the percentage
of the remaining vote Bean needs to take to erase Walsh’s lead.

McHenry County (with the fewest absentee vote, 24) will open their absentees
Tuesday morning. Cook County (with likely the second largest number
of votes to count) will open ballots Tuesday afternoon. Lake County Clerk
Williard Helander (with the most 8th district precinct and likely the most
absentees) will open ballots “late afternoon” on the 16th.

Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.