Franken hopes turns on absentee issueThose absentee ballots that Franken is trying to count were "found" in the backseat of a Democratic election supervisor days after the election. The Immaculate Election!TM
By: Daniel Libit
November 24, 2008 01:13 PM EST
One of the closest elections in U.S. Senate history is hurtling towards a critical juncture in its ongoing recount this week, as the campaign of Democratic challenger Al Franken opens a new legal front in its battle to break a virtual tie with Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.
On Wednesday, the Minnesota State Canvassing Board will hear arguments from Franken’s camp for why previously rejected absentee ballots should now be counted.
Coleman ended the initial count with an advantage of just 215 votes out of nearly 3 million cast, and has held a slim lead thus far in the recount.
“We’re 70 percent through [the recount] now,” Coleman Communications Director Mark Drake told Politico Sunday, “and a lot of the ballots that are looked at are in areas where Franken’s done well. We’re surprised he didn’t do better in terms of picking up more votes.”
Robert Hentges, a veteran Minnesota election law attorney not involved in this year’s recount, cautions that results rarely change in recounts of optical scan ballots, as are used in almost every county in the state, “Very few votes change,” he said, and “more often or not, for the winner on election night, the gap grows.”
While the conventional wisdom is that these recounted ballots should break the same way as the broader election results, Republicans fret that sloppy Democratic voters might mean Franken votes emerging as the recount continues.
“Democrats are [thought to be] more creative, free-spirited, so the idea is they’re more likely to make a mistake that the optical scan won’t pick up,” explains Hentges. “But when they recount the hard copy, those votes will be counted for Franken. If you talk to Republicans, they say it will be Franken’s advantage, because Democrats are stupid and will screw up ballots more often.”
Republicans are moderately confident that the canvassing board will reject the Franken line on absentees, based on the assessment encapsulated in a letter Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Ken Rashke wrote to Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. In it, he cited Minnesota statute 204C.35, which states: “Only the ballots cast in the election and the summary statements certified by the election judges may be considered in the recount process.”
In an opposing brief, Franken lawyers said that Raschke’s analysis “contains significant errors.”
“In fact,” the Franken team argued, “both state law and key decisions from other states require that improperly rejected absentee ballots be included in the recount in this election.”
Presuming that he doesn’t catch up, Franken could hypothetically take a recount fight all the way to the floor US Senate, which according to the Constitution can involve itself in election certification. Some Republicans think Franken’s legal machinations now are more about creating political momentum for a long-winded pursuit.
“For right now, that is really putting the cart before the horse,” says Franken campaign spokeswoman Colleen Murray. “Right now, we’re still just trying to make sure where the ballots are counted. It really is too early to speculate.”
For a state abounding with civic pride, stupid is not something that anyone wants to look as the recount battle continues.
“This is part of the Minnesota pride in our elections process,” says Janecek. “It is a collegial process, because everybody agrees that we don’t want to be the laughing stock of the nation.”
Ummmm, I hate to inform Ms. Janecek, but the fact that Al Franken - let me repeat - AL FRANKEN ran statewide as a candidate to be your Senator in the United States Senate and nearly prevailed already makes you the laughingstock of the nation.
ARC: St Wendeler