Minnesota Mischief

  • Updated: November 12, 2008 - 12:07 PM

An editorial in the Nov. 12 Wall Street Journal:

You’d think Democrats would be content with last week’s electoral rout. But judging from the odd doings in Minnesota, some in their party wouldn’t mind adding to their jackpot by stealing a Senate seat for left-wing joker Al Franken.

When Minnesotans woke up last Wednesday, Republican Senator Norm Coleman led Mr. Franken by 725 votes. By that evening, he was ahead by only 477. As of yesterday, Mr. Coleman’s margin stood at 206. This lopsided bleeding of Republican votes is passing strange considering that the official recount hasn’t even begun.

The vanishing Coleman vote came during a week in which election officials are obliged to double-check their initial results. Minnesota is required to do these audits, and it isn’t unusual for officials to report that they transposed a number here or there. In a normal audit, these mistakes could be expected to cut both ways. Instead, nearly every “fix” has gone for Mr. Franken, in some cases under strange circumstances.

For example, there was Friday night’s announcement by Minneapolis’s director of elections that she’d forgotten to count 32 absentee ballots in her car. The Coleman campaign scrambled to get a county judge to halt the counting of these absentees, since it was impossible to prove their integrity 72 hours after the polls closed. The judge refused on grounds that she lacked jurisdiction.
Up in Two Harbors, another liberal outpost, Mr. Franken picked up an additional 246 votes. In Partridge Township, he racked up another 100. Election officials in both places claim they initially miscommunicated the numbers. Odd, because in the Two Harbors precinct, none of the other contests recorded any changes in their vote totals.

According to conservative statistician John Lott, Mr. Franken’s gains so far are 2.5 times the corrections made for Barack Obama in the state, and nearly three times the gains for Democrats across Minnesota Congressional races. Mr. Lott notes that Mr. Franken’s “new” votes equal more than all the changes for all the precincts in the entire state for the Presidential, Congressional and statehouse races combined (482 votes).

This entire process is being overseen by Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who isn’t exactly a nonpartisan observer. One of Mr. Ritchie’s financial supporters during his 2006 run for office was a 527 group called the Secretary of State Project, which was co-founded by James Rucker, who came from MoveOn.org. The group says it is devoted to putting Democrats in jobs where they can “protect elections.”

Mr. Ritchie is also an ally of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, of fraudulent voter-registration fame. That relationship might explain why prior to the election Mr. Ritchie waved off evidence of thousands of irregularities on Minnesota voter rolls, claiming that accusations of fraud were nothing more than “desperateness” from Republicans.

Mr. Franken and fellow Democrats are already waging a full-scale public pressure campaign to help turn the recount their way. That includes a push to turn what should be a straightforward count of existing legal ballots into a complete do-over -- mau-mauing election officials into accepting tossed ballots. The Franken campaign recently showed up before the Hennepin County canvassing board, demanding that its liberal members count 461 previously rejected ballots. To the board’s credit, they unanimously voted no.
The Franken campaign has also been wrapping itself around Barack Obama’s popularity to increase its recount potential.

Minnesota has a voter intent law, which means that election officials can take a second look at ambiguous ballots. Mr. Franken’s people are already arguing that a vote for Mr. Obama certainly indicated a vote for Mr. Franken. This can’t possibly be true, however, because nearly every campaign poll showed Mr. Franken lagging Mr. Obama by five to 15 percentage points -- and on Election Day he trailed by 12.2 percent. Mr. Franken ran a nasty, polarizing campaign, and in any case he was part of a three-man contest.

The Coleman team is demanding the tapes from the voting machines on election night, and that’s the least Mr. Ritchie can do. The Secretary of State should also investigate miraculous discoveries like the “forgotten” 32 car ballots. He needs to show voters, the press and the Coleman team that he’s running a transparent process that focuses on previously counted votes, rather than changing the rules after the election is over.

With their party only three Senate seats from the 60 needed to break a filibuster (and two still not decided), Democrats have a political incentive to cut corners to steal a seat if they can get away with it. Mr. Franken and his left-wing allies also know that if Mr. Franken couldn’t win election in this fabulous Democratic year, then the not-so-funnyman never will. If Minnesota wants to retain its reputation as a state with clean elections, it needs to run an honest recount.

 

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