Recount On!

Today marks the first day of the infamous Senate recount, where election judges and campaign stooges will be going over, by hand, all 2.9 million votes in the US Senate race. According to Mark Richie’s website, they are not prepared to announce the final results of the recount until December 16, making this the last contest of 2008 (with Georgia’s runoff election on December 2 and Alaska no longer accepting absentee ballots as of today). This not only means that everyone and their dog are suddenly going to become interested in Minnesota, but everyone is suddenly going to become experts on Minnesota election law.

Take last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal editorial. The Journal, using their vast, partisan brains, have deduced that since Norm Coleman’s lead has narrowed from 726 votes to 215 votes post-election, then obviously it’s because Al Franken has stolen the election. “This lopsided bleeding of Republican votes is passing strange considering that the official recount hasn’t even begun.” Never mind election judges have always gone over their figures post-election night and issued corrections thereafter. And never mind that Norm Coleman has actually gained 800 votes since election night, with Al Franken gaining 1,347, and Dean Barkley gaining 258. It’s not that Coleman lost votes – it’s that Franken has gained more.

I was listening to Dennis Prager on 100.3 last Sunday, as the only other thing on was a really attrocious DJ on the Current and A Prairie Home Companion on MPR. Prager was talking surprisingly fairly about the Minnesota recount, as he wasn’t accusing Franken of stealing votes and eating small children or anything. But he brought this alleged “expert” on Minnesota politics in on the show, who was asked “What does the Minnesota voter intent law mean?” He replied, “I don’t know.” Prager tried to prod him, and asked, “Well, does this mean that if you put an ‘X’ instead of filling in the bubble, that your vote will be counted?” He replied, “No.” Huh. Really?

For all of the experts who are being brought in to talk on Talk Radio about the recount, allow me to give you a little primer. First, Al Franken is not stealing votes, but is just getting more post-election corrections than Norm Coleman. Second, the Minnesota voter intent law means that an election judge and a representative from each party has to divine the intent of the voter, rather than establish whether they had filled in the ballot correctly. This means that if you put an “X” instead of filling in the bubble, then your vote is counted. If you circle your candidate’s name, then your vote is counted. If you scratch out every single other candidate’s name except for yours, then your vote is counted. If you draw a little picture if a man that looks like one of the three Senate candidates, then your vote is counted. Third, either representative from the respective campaigns can challenge a ballot, in which case it goes straight to the Minnesota Canvassing Board, where Richie and a technically bipartisan panel (there are no DFL appointed judges on the panel, only GOP and IP appointed judges) will make a final ruling on the ballot. Forth, once the recount is over, if it’s a tie, it comes down to a coin toss. No reelection: Minnesota state statute 204C.34 is very clear, the winner is determined by lot. Fifth, this is not Florida. Stop calling us that.

10 Comments so far

  1. greg on November 19th, 2008 @ 10:04 am

    If you can’t fill out the ballot like it says to, your vote shouldn’t count. PERIOD. Remember when you took the skills tests in grade school or the ACT/SAT bubble tests? If you didn’t fill in the bubble completely, per the directions, you were S.O.L. Voting is a precious right that people go to great lengths to become a citizen here to earn. I say, figure out how to mark a ballot or your vote doesn’t count.

    As for the "stealing the election" argument, you left out the biggest issue — extra absentee ballots found in a trunk long after the deadline that are all for Franken. I heard yesterday even more absentee ballots are now being found and considered. The potential for fraud is so high if you let people vote after the polls close.

  2. emilysaysso on November 19th, 2008 @ 10:21 am

    I was also a little thrown off by the assumption that since Franken was "gaining on" Coleman that the election would most certainly be his. The margin has narrowed VERY slightly (roughly 500 votes out of 2.9 MILLION is what? Like a ten-thousandth of a percent?

    We’re not going to know anything for a while, so everyone needs to calm down!

  3. doniree on November 19th, 2008 @ 10:33 am

    Ah, I’m so glad you wrote this! You’ve echoed a lot of things I’ve been thinking and didn’t have the confident know-how to articulate it clearly. I’m so annoyed by all of the misquotes and Florida comparisons.

  4. » Blog Archive » The Minnesota Senate Election Recount - Day 1 (pingback) on November 19th, 2008 @ 10:40 am

    […] can find the entire post here, but here’s a little teaser for you: For all of the experts who are being brought in to talk […]

  5. elpac on November 19th, 2008 @ 11:26 am

    too bad minnesota cannot hold a run-off election like georgia. seems much better than a recount.

    in other senate news, the papers reported that democrat mark begich ousted republican ted stevens in alaska. alaska is counting votes still, but begich is ahead by enough to declare victory. stevens is corrupt. can’t believe it was that close.

  6. Donavon (brash) on November 19th, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

    Greg, I would like to thank you for bringing up those two issues. Of all the topics that are being covered on talk radio and in the blogosphere, those two are probably the biggest ones. And I completely forgot to cover them. If I may:

    Now, I mostly agree with your argument that the woefully stupid and willfully ignorant should not be allowed to vote, and I think the analogy of filling out skill tests in grade school and in college is very appropriate when it comes to voting. However, I have to also agree with you that voting is a precious right. Indeed, it is too precious a right to be invalidated by not understanding how to fill out a ScanTron sheet. Where does it say in the Constitution that you have the right to vote only if you can color within the lines? We have to remember, here, that the right to vote is so precious that no person should be denied it, and the Minnesota Voter Intent law guarantees that no one person, be they inattentive, stupid, or simply ignorant, be denied the right to vote.

    As for the 32 missing ballots that were mysteriously recovered, this is a really weird and totally unsubstantiated rumor that was started by Coleman campaign lawyer Fritz Knaak. He never provided a source, and he quickly backed off the assertion when he was called on it. What’s more, the votes weren’t all for Franken – that information was never made public, and insistence to the contrary is all just huffing and puffing from the right. This story has long been debunked, and for the sake of civility of discourse, not to mention intellectual honesty, the right should stop repeating this totally conflated fairy tale of suspected voter fraud.

  7. greg on November 19th, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

    Some people can’t pass the driving test, and I don’t think they should be able to drive. The bar really isn’t that high to fill in a line, ya know?

  8. Donavon (brash) on November 19th, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

    Sure, but driving is a privilege, not a right. The thing about rights is that, no matter how much you suck at using them, you will always have them. Indeed, even if you are a stupid, inarticulate clod, you will never have your right to speak freely taken away. And no matter how much you fail at filling in a ballot, your vote will still count.

  9. Julie (julie) on November 19th, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

    I don’t get why someone should be barred from voting (aka their civil right) because they are elderly, poor, or haven’t voted before and don’t understand how to vote– the demographics that are most affected by this "too stupid to vote" idea.

    And that "ballots found in trunk" story is false.

  10. greg on November 19th, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

    It appears the question should be, "Whose responsibility is it to make sure these people who can’t fill in lines know how to vote?" If it’s not your personal responsibility to understand "how" to vote as part of your "right" to vote, now you have an awfully big responsibility in the hands of people who may have alternative intentions.

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