Vin Weber: It's not just about Norm, and that's why he fights on

  • Article by: VIN WEBER
  • Updated: April 20, 2009 - 6:58 PM

At the heart of the matter: Every vote should be counted -- every time.

The decision by Norm Coleman to appeal the ruling by the three-judge panel in the U.S. Senate election contest ought to be viewed as a courageous step in the long-term interests of all Minnesotans.

While political analysts, Democratic stalwarts, Al Franken and a bored popular media want to call an end to what has become the longest election contest in Minnesota history, it should be noted that Coleman's courage and conviction will serve him well whatever the final outcome.

Let's be clear. The issues here are not about expediency. That's not how Minnesotans view civic life. On the contrary, Minnesota is the place where we value the legitimacy of our elections and the equal opportunity of all citizens to cast a legal ballot and have it counted.

Why else have one of the most accommodating election laws in the country? Why else make Minnesota one of the leaders in election day registration?

The Minnesota Supreme Court will be asked to rule on two very basic and fundamental issues in this matter.

The first is due process. However inconvenient for the political class, it is a fundamental right of all Americans to have their voices heard before the court and to seek redress from wrongs that have been committed against them.

In this election, the violation of due process of thousands of Minnesotans has taken place since election night and continues today as 4,400 of our state's citizens continue to have their ballots locked up and gathering dust across the state.

The second is equal protection. We've heard throughout this process that in 87 counties the decision about which ballots to accept and which to reject was not consistent. Therefore, the odds of having your vote counted was far greater in some counties than in others.

These are the two issues at stake. They are fundamental. They are basic. And they speak to the root issue of why Coleman is taking great personal risk to carry this matter to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

How much easier it would be for Coleman to simply step aside and move on with his life. How much more comfortable it would be if he simply conceded and took the pats on the back for being the bigger man and putting this election behind us.

And, how much we would all regret his taking the easy way out.

This isn't easy for him. It's not fun. There's no joy in the being the guy who continues to have to argue on behalf of 4,400 people who probably don't even know their votes weren't counted.

But, win or lose before this Supreme Court, there is one thing for certain.

The idea that one person, one vote -- that due process and equal protection -- are fundamental to our rights as Americans will be heard and decided upon.

And for that fight on behalf of our constitutional rights -- and the rights of our citizens -- we should all thank Norm Coleman.

Win or lose, he will have taught us all something about some fights being bigger than one person and one party.

Some fights are about the very ideals that created the right that we all have to expect: that our votes ought to be counted -- every election, every time, all the time.

Vin Weber, former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota, is a Washington lobbyist.

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