Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A brief defense

Of ballot challengers in the Minnesota senate recount. There has been a lot of repeating of Judge Kathleen Gearin's - intemperate to Spot's ear - remarks about the number of challenges made, including in a Strib editorial today:

The campaigns have been shrinking the number of such ballots -- as well they should. Canvassing board member Judge Kathleen Gearin has been right to scold the two campaigns for allowing the challenged ballot number to swell unreasonably, at one point past 6,000. Frivolous challenges do more than waste officials' time and taxpayer treasure. They also exhibit a lack of seriousness that Gearin aptly labeled disrespectful to Minnesota voters.

We've all seen the pictures of volunteers from both campaigns hunched over an election official looking at ballots. Spot did not see a single one wearing a "frivolous" expression. Some of the volunteers, by the way, have put in as much or more time than the Canvassing Board has on this issue to date, for a lot less in pay.

Spot has said this before, but it is worth repeating. Put yourself in the shoes of a volunteer challenger: a ballot is presented; there is some question what the voter intended, maybe not much, but some, or the ballot contains some stray marks or other distinguishing feature that arguably make the voter identifiable (like voting for your cat for judge).

If the ballot is not challenged on the spot, it's gone forever from further consideration. You know that the election is really, really close, and you don't want to be the one who fails to challenge what may be THE vote that turns the tide.

Again, you're a volunteer. What do you do?

Gosh, Spotty, I'd challenge the ballot.

You have chosen well, grasshopper. There may be a few truly "frivolous" challenges in there, but Spot bets there are many more mistakes of judgment or erring on the side of caution. And the campaign professionals have whittled the challenge numbers down on both sides.

Spot believes that the recount was an enormous undertaking that's been pretty well done by the election judges and the volunteer challengers. Spot has also read accounts by election experts from around the country who also think so.

It is just regrettable that the Judge is so dismissive of the efforts of so many people.

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