Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Coleman/Franken update

Amidst the Blagojevich coverage going on is the unanswered question of who won the Coleman/Franken election in Minnesota. I say unanswered because the recounts are done, but the challenged ballots will now be taken up. Yes, Norm Coleman won the initial vote count, the mandatory recount, and the hand recount, but there are over 6,000 challenged ballots that the canvassing boards and election judges will have to look at. The Strib says that the devil is in the details, or namely the lack thereof: (HT to Captain Ed)

In the sunken first floor of a state government building in St. Paul, behind a locked door and under the silent gaze of a security camera, sit thousands of ballots that could decide the U.S. Senate race.

They're the ballots challenged by the campaigns of Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, waiting to be awarded to one candidate or the other, or neither.

But with a week to go before the state Canvassing Board begins ruling on challenged ballots, major questions remain about how the process will work.

It's still not clear whether the campaigns will be allowed to argue their case to the board on each ballot, whether a simple majority of the five-person board will prevail in the case of split decisions, and how long this phase of the recount will play out.

Minnesota counties have sent envelopes containing 6,655 challenged ballots to a FedEx site in St. Paul, where two employees of the secretary of state's office picked them up and drove them to the state government building.

The secretary of state's office has begun sorting the challenges by precinct, ballot number, candidate making the challenge and other characteristics. Included are 2,183 challenges that have been withdrawn by the campaigns, but some of those are ballots where the ruling of the original election judge is unclear. The office plans to award the withdrawn challenges to candidates before the Canvassing Board convenes Tuesday to consider the remaining disputes, said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann. ...

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says he expects the state Canvassing Board to complete its review of challenged ballots in four days. He says the five-member board is likely to spend perhaps two to three minutes per ballot on "head scratchers." Maybe 240 such ballots could be decided in an 8-hour day; 960 during the four days that the canvassing board has scheduled for the review.

But the expectation that that will be enough is based on a couple of large assumptions.

One assumption is that the campaigns will reduce their total challenges to fewer than 1,000 genuine disputes by next Tuesday. Another is Ritchie's expectation that the campaigns will not play a major role in the board's review of the challenges.

If either of those assumptions proves untrue, the Canvassing Board action could drag on for many days.

The new Congress convenes on 6 January which makes the fifth D-Day for the conclusion of all challenges. Captain Ed breaks down the numbers and states that if both sides are given their time to argue over the ballots, the board will never finish in time. Tim Pawlenty could simply appoint Coleman back to his seat until the challenges are complete, but Ed notes that such a move could force a special election. Additionally, he notes that Harry Reid could refuse to seat Coleman, which opens the door up for him to order a Senate decision over the election. (Remember that the House and Senate are the judges of their own elections, and Reid could legally step in and seat Franken. Granted, it's political suicide, but we don't give Reid too much credit for having brains.)

It's our opinion that Franken is simply being a sore loser here. The Strib has assembled a quiz, of sorts for those that would like to look at the contested ballots, and make the determination themselves. After looking at a few of these, we can't see how these ballots are even claimed by either side. Some of them have two candidates picked, some have lines through or under the names, etc. The voters screwed up these ballots, and instead of asking for a new one, and destroying their mistake ballots, they turned them in anyway. Because voters couldn't follow the instructions/rules for filling out a ballot, those ballots that are mistakes should be rejected. We'll see what happens here, but Coleman still leads minus the canvassing board's review of these ballots.

Publius II


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