The recount has taught us much. So far we know there are several reasons a ballot can be invalidated.
1. Ballot traced to Mr. Bing Bong 007 Rabbit-Piano, 123 Fake St., Bemidji, Uranus. Really, c'mon. Fake Street was renamed Falsehood Drive 10 years ago. Someone's using old maps.
2. Ballot discovered at the last moment in the back room in a box under some Tiger Beat magazines with Eric Estrada on the cover, and the guy who brings it in also offers to sell you 40 cartons of cigarettes and some DVD players.
3. Ballots certified by a precinct captain who, when asked for his credentials, shouts FOILED! FOILED AGAIN!, shoots a grappling hook into the ceiling using a gun concealed in his utility belt, and is lifted through a skylight to a waiting helicopter above. He promises to come back with proper ID but never does.
4. Ballot is so ideologically inconsistent it appears the dude was just messing with us.
5. Ballot traced to voter who left booth muttering that it must be one of those automatic flush things because he didn't hear nothing and couldn't find a knob.
6. Ballot is spoiled. It's still difficult to understand how people can screw up a ballot. You could understand if there was math involved: If you prefer Sen. Coleman, divide 22 by seven and round up the result to 37 places. If you prefer Al Franken, convert the mean temperature in June to Celsius, then add the rate of inflation. Even then the ballots would be contested, since one side would note that the instructions did not specify whether non-farm core inflation was the baseline, and besides, it's seasonally adjusted. RECOUNT. You'd think it would be simple. What did these people do to make the ballot unclear? Tape a Sharpie to a chimp's head and send him in the booth? Every time I vote I'm in 5th grade again, taking the Iowa Basics, well aware that my failure to completely fill in the oval with a #2 pencil -- as if we ever saw a #1, let alone the fabled #3 -- would result in flashing red lights in a computer somewhere in Des Moines, and my picture would be stamped RECOMMEND LIFELONG EMPLOYMENT PUMPING PORTA POTTIES. I get the same permanent-record feeling when I vote.
7. Ballot reveals hidden truths. One spoiled ballot was easy to discard, since the voter wrote in LIZARD PEOPLE. Seriously. Normally that would be fine, but he also voted for another candidate. "Lizard People" is a reference to a nutjob cult that believes we're ruled by an ancient race of alien reptiles, to which you might say "well, no duh." Of course, it's a cover story for the Wombat from Dimension X that really rules us from the center of the earth, but that's another column. (Editor's note: no, it isn't.)
Whatever the result, it seems almost unfair that one fellow should get the job by such a slim margin. Let us consider some equitable means to reflect the will of all Minnesotans.
• Whoever loses gets to tag along for six years. It's only fair. He doesn't get his own office, but he can sit in the waiting room, ride in the front of the limo, and maybe sit in the winner's lap when votes are cast.
• Bodies of candidates fused into one Senator by experimental teleportation technology, as seen in the movie "The Fly." Without all the goo and climbing-on-the-wall stuff. Downside: every speech would end when the left or right hand attempts to strangle the Senator. Upside: fundraising would be doubled.
• Revolving terms. One gets to be Senator on weekdays, then the other takes over Friday through Sunday. Think of it as joint custody. Play them against each other. You're mean! You can't make me pay more taxes! I'll go stay at my other Senator's house and live there forever! Or maybe Weekend Senator lets me charge this year's capital expenditures against fiscal '08 grosses. I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU CAN'T.
If we as a state can learn to pout and slam the door, we'll have it made.