Saturday, December 20, 2008

Down To The Wire

The race for U.S. Senator in Minnesota is coming down to the wire, it would appear. Incumbent Senator Norm Coleman has been losing ground steadily, and now appears to be behind challenger Al Franken, Nate Silver of Five Thirty-Eight explains:

Minnesota's Canvassing Board this afternoon completed the bulk of its review of challenged ballots. The Canvassing Board ruled upon 1,325 challenges, according to numbers prepared by the Star Tribune, including 852 challenges brought by the Coleman campaign and 472 brought by the Franken campaign. Among these 1,325 ballots, 758 were allocated to Franken, 319 to Coleman, and 248 ballots were assigned to third-party candidates or deemed to be illegal. This resulted in a net gain of 439 votes for Franken, giving him a nominal lead of 251 ballots.

Franken's lead is almost certain to diminish once the Canvassing Board reviews more than 5,000 withdrawn challenges, and defaults them to the rulings originally made at the county level.

Franken is Winning, and Coleman Knows It

There's still a lot of vote counting and arguing to go, however. At this point, it looks like Minnesota will have a Senator Al Franken soon.

One difference you'll notice between this process and the one that went on in Florida in 2000 following a close race for President is that it's being taken seriously by the state government. They're counting the votes, including a few that I'd have trouble deciding, and they're finding the ones they missed the first time around. Part of the reason for that is that the Democratic Party has learned to take the state offices that control elections seriously, as this e-mail from ActBlue explains:

As you read this, canvass boards in Minnesota are scrutinizing hundreds of ballots to make sure that every vote is counted. Why? Because Secretary of State Project candidate Mark Ritchie is making sure that the election for Minnesota's Senate seat is handled with the transparency and fairness Americans expect.

Despite a razor-thin margin of victory and hundreds of ballots missing or uncounted, Republican Norm Coleman declared victory in November and tried to rush back to Washington. Secretary Ritchie did the right thing for the people of Minnesota and pushed ahead with a recount. Ritchie has protected election officials from Republican harassment and ordered the examination of absentee ballots, searching for those that were wrongfully excluded from the count. So far, the process has turned up approximately 1600 ballots, many of which are expected to favor Democrat Al Franken.

In many states, including Washington, the Secretary of State is in charge of election management, in cooperation with the county boards of elections. Florida's SoS was political hack Katharine Harris. In Washington, we had a very close election for governor in 2004, which was initially won by the Republican candidate, Dino Rossi. After two recounts, it was determined that Christine Gregoire had won by less than 200 votes. Our state was lucky enough to have an honest Republican, Sam Reed, in charge of this process.

In at least three statewide elections in the last three years, the difference has turned out to be less than three hundred votes out of millions cast. I draw two conclusions from this. First, your vote really does count. It won't always matter, but sometimes it does. In each of these three elections, if five hundred of the loser's supporters had shown up that day instead of blowing the election off, the outcome would have been different. Second, all votes should be counted fairly, and the Democrats have been right to emphasize this. Let's hope that emphasis continues, and is embraced by more Republican Party politicians as well.


One Fly said...

Whether it's this race or any other when a recount is needed if my guy doesn't win I'll deal with it.

As long as it's FAIR!

If Al wins the wingnuts will go zonkers with bs across the land.

Cujo359 said...

They generally do. The Washington governor's race engendered all sorts of nonsense.