Monday, December 29, 2008

The Smell of Fear returns

When we last left Fritz Knaak - or Spot did, anyway - he was fulminating about and against the consideration of initially rejected absentee ballots in the recount:

Minnesotans should not just be concerned about this potential – they should be almost fearful of the Franken Campaign's unprecedented efforts to get across to their private data to influence this recount – and equally fearful of the Franken Campaign's efforts to force rejected and spoiled ballots into a recount for the first time ever in the 150 year history of our state.

Of course, Fritz was really the one who was fearful; Sigmund Spot would probably theorize that Fritz was projecting.

How did that work out for him, Spotty?

Not well, grasshopper. You see, starting tomorrow, there will be a series of meeting around the state to consider improperly rejected absentee ballots. The counties identified a total of 1,346 ballots that fall into the improperly rejected category, and the Franken camp says just count them all, but not so fast says the Coleman campaign:

The campaigns of Sen. Norm Coleman and Al Franken disagree over the number of absentee ballots that were improperly rejected and should now be counted.

While Franken wants to count 1,346 ballots that county officials say were mistakenly rejected, Coleman for now is agreeing to count only 136 of them. Campaign spokesman Cullen Sheehan said the campaign may agree to counting more of the county-identified ballots this afternoon and also is likely to seek to add several hundred more that the counties have not identified as having been rejected in error.

The dispute sets up the potential for a contentious series of meetings around the state Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday between county officials and the two campaigns over which absentee ballots should be counted or remain excluded.

In its recent order on the subject, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that the two campaigns had to agree on which absentee ballots should be counted.

Boy, that sounds for a recipe for disaster, doesn't it Spotty?

Yes it does. This is from a letter from Robert Frame in today's Star Tribune:

I am flummoxed by the decision by the bare majority of those Minnesota Supreme Court justices who heard the case about counting the incorrectly rejected absentee ballots. It not only defies logic that they would insert the partisan campaigns into deciding whether to count all validly cast votes; it defies our democracy. I am not surprised that their reasoning is unconvincing, since I can't imagine how to justify their choice. I hope they feel the appropriate amount of shame in their decision.

Putting the campaigns in any measure of control of the decision about which ballots to count is, as Mr. Frame suggests, and abdication of the responsibilities of the election officials and the courts. And, as the linked article demonstrates, it isn't going to work. Thinking that Fritz & Co. would agree to include voters was an act of judicial fantasy.

But it does look like we're coming to the end of the line, and it is looking more and more like Al Franken will be the winner. Parenthetically, as the last senator elected, boys and girls, can you imagine the office that Al will get? Maybe a double wide in the Dirksen Office Building parking lot. If Al does get the nod, what will be the mood of Minnesotans?

Brian Lambert ruminated about that in a blog post just before Christmas:

To this point, most Minnesotans, and avid recount watchers around the country, have been entirely patient with the process. Mainly because it has been so thoroughly anti-Floridian, which is to say transparent and free of any discernible political big-footing. Both sides have spun their spins, challenged the unchallengeable, and countered the other's silly legal gambits. But as long as that has been peripheral noise to a process that counted every vote, the public has put up with it. Good for us.

But we are now fast approaching the moment when all the votes--challenged, absentee, what have you--will have been counted as best and as transparently as humanly possible. Once that point is reached and the canvassing board can certify a winner, I know my patience will have expired, and I don't think I'm alone.

I called Hamline School of Business professor Dave Schultz, an oft-quoted "expert source" on political matters (he also teaches election law the the U of M's law school). My curiosity was how he thought the "court of public opinion " might react to whoever refuses to accept the verdict of the actual ballot-counting? My sense is that Minnesotans have no appetite for legal gaming that would attempt to invalidate all the open, earnest work that has been going on. We've been nice about it up until now. We won't be if it looks like this thing is going to get re-fried with legal smoke and mirrors.

Here's more from the telephone conversation with Professor Schultz:

In general, Schultz--like many others--sees Coleman in a difficult situation, if only that as the recount exercises due diligence with every credible aspect of ballot-counting. Coleman's legal challenges to date have been directed toward vote suppression while Franken's strategy has been the opposite, counting everything.

Point being, Coleman is at--or very close to--the point where the only way he wins is by suppressing votes, which is not something that will go unnoticed--or play too well with the public--after all the attention this thing has received.

"Exactly," Schultz says. "That's the way he has to play it and the way that he has. He's gone to Ramsey County Court once and the Supreme Court twice in essence attempting to suppress votes, and he's lost each time."

Isn't that what Republicans do, Spotty?

Now it is Spot's turn to say exactly, grasshopper.

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