California House races hang in balance amid slow vote count

State returns on Wednesday showed Rohrabacher, a 13-term congressman in coastal Orange County in Southern California, trailing his Democratic challenger, Harley Rouda, center. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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California House races hang in balance amid slow vote count

  • In Orange County alone, well over 400,0000 votes remained left to be counted
  • Democrats have achieved a net gain of 32 House seats nationwide

LOS ANGELES: California’s pro-Russia congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, is one of four Republican incumbents in the state whose seats are still in danger of falling to Democratic opponents in the US House of Representatives as America’s most populous state slowly counts its votes.
The outcome of those races — and how much they add to the Democrats’ majority in the newly constituted House — may be uncertain for weeks to come because of mail-in and provisional balloting systems that California introduced in recent years to boost voter participation.
According to the latest projections by media outlets and data provider DDHQ, Democrats have achieved a net gain of 32 House seats nationwide.
California election results tallied as of Wednesday do not account for millions of outstanding ballots still to be processed statewide. Many were mailed by voters to local registrar offices by Tuesday’s deadline but have yet to be delivered.
In Orange County alone, well over 400,0000 votes remained left to be counted, more than half of them mail-in ballots, according to data provided by the county registrar’s office on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of provisional ballots for voters who waited until election day to register also are outstanding.
State returns on Wednesday showed Rohrabacher, a 13-term congressman in coastal Orange County in Southern California, trailing his Democratic challenger, Harley Rouda, a real estate entrepreneur and former Republican, by fewer than 3,000 votes — or 49.3 percent to 50.7 percent.
Rouda, whose lead improved slightly on Thursday to 51 percent, versus 49 percent for Rohracher, estimated that 70,000 ballots remained to be counted in the district.
Rouda said he was “cautiously optimistic” that “our lead will hold and in all likelihood will increase” when all votes are in, but said he would hold off on any announcements for at least several days.
The Rohrabacher campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Rohrabacher-Rouda race has stood out nationally in part because of the incumbent’s reputation for unabashedly pro-Russian views, widely seen as once putting him on a short-list for consideration as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state.
Rohrabacher’s seat is one of several held by a Republican in a California district that supported Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 presidential election or was otherwise seen as vulnerable to flipping Democrat.
That race and three others in the state where Democrats were seeking to pick up a Republican seat were either still in play or, as was the cases in two districts, leaning so heavily toward Democrats that they had claimed victory.
However, Republican incumbents appeared to have garnered comfortable leads in at least three other House races in Southern California that Democrats had viewed as up for grabs.
Among them was Duncan Hunter, who has pleaded not guilty to felony corruption charges but managed to defeat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former Obama administration aide of Mexican and Palestinian heritage.
No races will be certified for at least a month, the time election officials are given to complete their “official canvass” of all votes. They have until Dec. 7 to report final results to the California secretary of state, who then will have another week to officially declare winners. 


Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

Updated 23 January 2019
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Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

  • Assurances given that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants
  • The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide

KABUL: The Afghan government has launched a polio vaccination program covering 5.4 million children in high-risk areas, officials said on Tuesday.

The one-month campaign to inoculate children under 5 years old started on Monday after assurances from tribal chiefs and clerics that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants, and that families will allow their kids to get the lifetime immunization, the officials said.

The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide. Among the reasons were health workers’ lack of access due to violence, and families preventing their children from being vaccinated because of the perception that it is hazardous to their health, said Waheed Mayar, chief spokesman for the Public Health Ministry.

Some vaccinators were killed by suspected militants in past years while touring villages. “This year, we’ve received assurances from villagers, tribal chiefs and clerics that they’ll make sure vaccinators are allowed (to do their work) as vaccination is essential for their children,” Mayar told Arab News.

High-risk areas include parts of western, southeast and central Afghanistan, the Public Health Ministry said.

“We will have five vaccination campaigns for the first half of 2019. We are using this time to build immunity among our people,” Public Health Minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz said in a statement.

“We need to work together to end polio for the world… We need to help each other, open our doors, get our children vaccinated,” he added.

“Our children are innocents and rely on us to protect them from preventable paralysis. We cannot let them down.”

Parents should plan to have their children at home and available to be vaccinated during the campaign, the ministry said.

“The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and newborn children. It is very important these children get the vaccine because they have lower immunity, which makes them more susceptible to the virus,” the ministry added. “Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars.”