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.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Franken to be declared the winner in Minnesota

While we don't share Drew's derision for Minnesota voters we do have to question their sanity in voting for Al Franken, tax-cheating pornographer. What's the matter up there in Minnesota, half the state eat bad hot dishes before heading to the polls? Anyway, the Canvassing Board is set to declare Franken the winner (and that dogs and cats are now living together):

The state Canvassing Board was posed to certify the results of the recount in Minnesota's grueling Senate election in Al Franken's favor — but that doesn't mean the race is definitely over.

The board was to meet Monday and was expected to declare which candidate received the most overall votes from nearly 3 million ballots cast. The latest numbers showed Franken, a Democrat, with a 225-vote lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

But after the announcement, there will be a seven-day waiting period before an election certificate is completed. If any lawsuits are filed during that waiting period, certification is conditional until the issue is settled in court.

Coleman, who led Franken on election night, hasn't ruled out a lawsuit challenging the results, claiming there were irregularities that gave Franken an unfair advantage.

The Coleman campaign also has a petition pending before the state Supreme Court to include 650 ballots that it says were improperly rejected but not forwarded by local officials to St. Paul for counting.

The court has not said when it would rule in that case.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who until recently was the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Sunday that Franken had won the election.

"While there are still possible legal issues that will run their course, there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota," Schumer said. "With the Senate set to begin meeting on Tuesday to address the important issues facing the nation, it is crucial that Minnesota's seat not remain empty, and I hope this process will resolve itself as soon as possible."

Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Schumer's comments premature and troubling, since Schumer is the new chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over contested elections.

"Senator Schumer will likely play a key role in determining who ultimately assumes this Senate seat," Cornyn said. "Pre-judging the outcome while litigation is still pending calls into question his ability to impartially preside over this matter when it comes before the Committee, as it most certainly will."

Coleman's term as senator officially expired Saturday.

Senate Republican leaders have said the chamber shouldn't seat Franken until all legal matters are settled, even if that drags on for months.

Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr said in an e-mail Sunday: "In terms of future planning, we're taking it one step at a time. The next step is the canvass board's meeting tomorrow, where we have every expectation they will declare that Al won the election."

Yes, expect the legal challenges to come. Captain Ed explains where his best challenge point is:

His best bet may be the inconsistencies in challenge resolutions and the lack of a statewide, uniform standard in addressing the absentee ballots. Even that may not help much at this point, though. According to Coleman’s team, up to 1,000 absentee ballots should have been included instead of excluded, but gaining 225 votes out of 1,000 ballots will be a tall order — although not impossible, as Franken gained 200 out of the 935 absentee ballots they did count. Ballot challenge inconsistencies will have less of a chance, as those are inherently subjective and the court will give the Canvassing Board the widest possible latitude.

The biggest problem came in how the Canvassing Board judged what ballots would and wouldn't be counted, and the non-uniform standard in accepting contested ballots. Furthermore, after seeing what many of the contested ballots looked like, and the fact the voters apparently couldn't figure out how to fill out a ballot (recent Florida transplants, perhaps?) those screwed up ballots should have been tossed. But they weren't.

In today's Wall Street Journal the editors take note of the Minnesota recount and make the case that the recount -- nearly every aspect of it -- tended to break for Franken:

Mr. Franken started the recount 215 votes behind Senator Coleman, but he now claims a 225-vote lead and suddenly the man who was insisting on "counting every vote" wants to shut the process down. He's getting help from Mr. Ritchie and his four fellow Canvassing Board members, who have delivered inconsistent rulings and are ignoring glaring problems with the tallies.

Under Minnesota law, election officials are required to make a duplicate ballot if the original is damaged during Election Night counting. Officials are supposed to mark these as "duplicate" and segregate the original ballots. But it appears some officials may have failed to mark ballots as duplicates, which are now being counted in addition to the originals. This helps explain why more than 25 precincts now have more ballots than voters who signed in to vote. By some estimates this double counting has yielded Mr. Franken an additional 80 to 100 votes.

This disenfranchises Minnesotans whose vote counted only once. And one Canvassing Board member, State Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson, has acknowledged that "very likely there was a double counting." Yet the board insists that it lacks the authority to question local officials and it is merely adding the inflated numbers to the totals.

In other cases, the board has been flagrantly inconsistent. Last month, Mr. Franken's campaign charged that one Hennepin County (Minneapolis) precinct had "lost" 133 votes, since the hand recount showed fewer ballots than machine votes recorded on Election Night. Though there is no proof to this missing vote charge -- officials may have accidentally run the ballots through the machine twice on Election Night -- the Canvassing Board chose to go with the Election Night total, rather than the actual number of ballots in the recount. That decision gave Mr. Franken a gain of 46 votes.

Meanwhile, a Ramsey County precinct ended up with 177 more ballots than there were recorded votes on Election Night. In that case, the board decided to go with the extra ballots, rather than the Election Night total, even though the county is now showing more ballots than voters in the precinct. This gave Mr. Franken a net gain of 37 votes, which means he's benefited both ways from the board's inconsistency.

And then there are the absentee ballots. The Franken campaign initially howled that some absentee votes had been erroneously rejected by local officials. Counties were supposed to review their absentees and create a list of those they believed were mistakenly rejected. Many Franken-leaning counties did so, submitting 1,350 ballots to include in the results. But many Coleman-leaning counties have yet to complete a re-examination. Despite this lack of uniformity, and though the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on a Coleman request to standardize this absentee review, Mr. Ritchie's office nonetheless plowed through the incomplete pile of 1,350 absentees this weekend, padding Mr. Franken's edge by a further 176 votes.

Both campaigns have also suggested that Mr. Ritchie's office made mistakes in tabulating votes that had been challenged by either of the campaigns. And the Canvassing Board appears to have applied inconsistent standards in how it decided some of these challenged votes -- in ways that, again on net, have favored Mr. Franken.

The question is how the board can certify a fair and accurate election result given these multiple recount problems. Yet that is precisely what the five members seem prepared to do when they meet today. Some members seem to have concluded that because one of the candidates will challenge the result in any event, why not get on with it and leave it to the courts? Mr. Coleman will certainly have grounds to contest the result in court, but he'll be at a disadvantage given that courts are understandably reluctant to overrule a certified outcome.

Meanwhile, Minnesota's other Senator, Amy Klobuchar, is already saying her fellow Democrats should seat Mr. Franken when the 111th Congress begins this week if the Canvassing Board certifies him as the winner. This contradicts Minnesota law, which says the state cannot award a certificate of election if one party contests the results. Ms. Klobuchar is trying to create the public perception of a fait accompli, all the better to make Mr. Coleman look like a sore loser and build pressure on him to drop his legal challenge despite the funny recount business.

Minnesotans like to think that their state isn't like New Jersey or Louisiana, and typically it isn't. But we can't recall a similar recount involving optical scanning machines that has changed so many votes, and in which nearly every crucial decision worked to the advantage of the same candidate. The Coleman campaign clearly misjudged the politics here, and the apparent willingness of a partisan like Mr. Ritchie to help his preferred candidate, Mr. Franken. If the Canvassing Board certifies Mr. Franken as the winner based on the current count, it will be anointing a tainted and undeserving Senator.

In other words, with the help of a partisan secretary of state, Al Franken just stole this election. Without a set-in-stone set of uniform, fair standards, this is what is going to happen time and again, and in each and every state that doesn't have the uniform standards. We agree with Captain Ed's assessment that maybe it's time for states to adopt the Georgia election rule that you have to win an election by 50%-plus one vote. It would definitely take the decision making out of the hands of the courts or any other canvassing board that has to review contested elections. Either you hit the magic number and win, or you don't, and you lose.

Publius II


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home