Saturday, April 18, 2009

Norm Coleman's Missing Minnesota Votes?

After months of waiting for the outcome of the Minnesota Senatorial race between Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D), the race has been decided in Franken's favor. It was clear from the beginning that Coleman would lose this to the loud-mouthed Franken, not because he did not win, but simply because Franken would do and say about anything to get into that distinguished Senate seat. I remember an interview of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty saying sagely, Minnesota will see to it that a fair election outcome is the result of this recount (paraphrased). I think most of us knew that in a close vote, Coleman didn't have a chance up-against the Democrat machine. A lot of the problem in this race revolves around absentee ballots. It should not be so difficult to count EVERY absentee ballot, even if a ballot is not needed to name the winner. Every ballot should be counted every time. It seems in this case, how the ballot was signed was an issue. Well, if absentee ballots are allowed, why would the rules not be hard and fast? The ballot either qualifies or it doesn't. The way elections are handled these days, we can no longer be assured that our votes counted, and specifically counted correctly. The Wall Street Journal has an excellent overview of what went wrong...and what went wrong is that there is a good chance Coleman was cheated out of his seat. The point is, no one knows for certain. How discouraging is that? Of course, Coleman plans to appeal. Here are some snippets from the WSJ article:

By the end of the recount, the state was awash with evidence of duplicate ballot counting, newly discovered ballots, missing ballots, illegal voting, and wildly diverse standards as to which votes were counted. Any one of these issues was enough to throw the outcome into doubt. Combined, they created a taint more worthy of New Jersey than Minnesota. During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6,500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933. The three judges then finally defined what constituted a "legal" absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied these standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional absentees that the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed only about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now "illegal" according to the panel's own ex-post definition.

Democrats want to portray Mr. Coleman as a sore loser and make the Republican worry that he will ruin his chances for other political office. But Mr. Coleman has a legitimate grievance that not all votes have been treated equally. If the Franken standard of disparate absentee-voter treatment is allowed to stand, every close election will be settled by a legal scramble to change the vote-counting rules after Election Day. Minnesota should take the time to get this one right.

Read the entire article, including the progression of how this mess happened.

©2007-2012copyrightMaggie M. Thornton