November 20, 2008
POLITICS: Keep Counting Until You Win
If you want an illustration of why Republicans are so mistrustful of Democratic efforts to recount and recount and keep counting until they can overturn the Election Day results (and then immediately stop counting) - as Al Gore tried unsuccessfully to do, and as Christine Gregoire succeeded in doing in the Washington Governor's race four years ago, look no further than Minnesota and Al Franken's effort to pick off the 59th Democratic Senate seat by invalidating Norm Coleman's Election Day victory.
I haven't covered all the twists and turns of this lawyer-intensive effort, but a few to give you the flavor. Franken has been pressing to have all "undervotes" by Obama voters counted as votes for Franken on the theory that they are Democrats who undoubtedly meant to vote for Franken. The Orwellian name "undervote" aside, these are ballots where there's no vote marked for the race Franken was running in. It was silly to suggest, in 2000, that it was impossible for voters who voted Democrat in other races to have decided they really didn't want to vote either for Bush or for Gore - certainly plenty of voters found both candidates unsatisfactory, and if some of them accidentally forgot to vote, it was possible they meant to vote for Nader (or Buchanan - hey, if people could vote for both Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008, they can surely vote for any number of odd combinations). But it's positively ludicrous to make this argument in this race. First of all, we heard all year about Obama's "historic" appeal and whatnot...now we are supposed to believe that it's impossible that anybody would vote for Obama and not be equally enamored of Al Franken? Second, even losing the state by 11 points, John McCain won 44% of the vote in Minnesota (1.275 million votes) - more than Franken or Norm Coleman, who each got 42% (1.211 million votes). Obviously, a fair number of people on both sides of other races were not as enthused about the two Senate candidates. One reason was that there was a serious third party challenger in the race - Dean Barkley, who got 15% of the vote. A truly accidental undervote could just as easily have been a Barkley voter. This is why it makes sense to count only actual votes as votes.
Then take a look at an example of a Coleman vote that Franken's people say is unclear.
Now, after all that recounting, resulting in improbably large but not sufficient gains for Franken, what's his response? "the Franken campaign said the race starts over today tied 'zero-zero, with 2.9 million to go.'" In other words, no count matters except a count that gives the race to Franken. Repeat as often as necessary to create an excuse to have the count resolved not by Minnesota voters but by the Democratic majority of the U.S. Senate.
On a humorous note, Erick notes that "Franken said that he was 'cautiously optimistic' that he would prevail in the recount," and contrasts that with this quote from one of Franken's books:
Cautiously optimistic? That's not good. That's an optimist's way of saying, "We're screwed." I've instructed my wife that if a doctor ever tells her that he's "cautiously optimistic" about my test results, she is to pull the plug immediately.
Pull away, Al.
Where no vote is marked, none should be given to Franken just b/c the voter filled in Obama. But youre completely ignoring the thousands of ballots which were "disqualified" initially because there were pen marks elsewhere in the ballot. In other words the entire Franken bubble was filled in but there was a black dot inside of Barkley. It's this second group of ballots that can make the difference, and Minnesota law not only provides for a recount in extremely close races but for the "voter's intent" to be determined upon an eyeballing of the ballot. Examples of actual ballots like this are found at Politicalwire (Teagarden's site). You have cases where someone filled out Coleman's bubble by mistake, then crossed it out and wrote "no" and filled out Franken's bubble. We can debate where voter's intent should be considered in cases like these, but if the law allows it, clearly the vote should go to Franken (or coleman if the case was reversed). Redstate's early attempts to claim democratic votes were "found" in a car were absolutely discredited. As was Coleman's bullshit effort to pressure Franken into not asking for a recount at all. One knows that Coleman would have demanded one if he was slightly losing after the initial results on 11/5.
This is exactly what happened here in Washington in 2004 - King County had two recounts that gave the Governorship to Rossi. The third gave the vote to Gregoire, and that's the one that counted...
So far Coleman has challenged 240 of Franken's votes to 170 challenges on the other side. So who is trying to rig this thing then?
robert, as I noted in the post the biggest problem here in Franken's conduct of the recount is the "votes" he's trying to add in.
I personally don't like this whole challenge process. I understand the idea of having a neutral, automatic machine recount if it's close. But basically, I have never seen any sign that recounts make the final count more, rather than less, accurate.
Counting the number of challenges says nothing about the quality of the challenges. In fact, Coleman having challenged more votes is consistent with assertions from the right that Franken is attempting to manipulate the results.
The point here is that you can't tell who is trying to "rig this thing" from the number of challenges. It could be either side based solely on that information.
My personal favorite is the ballot where someone *erased* the mark by Frankens name and marked Barkley clearly, but the Franken campaign says the *eraser* mark is proof the voter intended to vote for Franken!
"Count every vote" is a Democrat code-word for "let us steal elections".
What's the point of having a machine recount if the same machines failed to count votes in the first place? The law provides for a recount in close elections and members of both sides to witness it. And Mn law allows for intent of voter to be ascertained, which includes the Coleman vote example that you mentioned that many machines would not count even though its clear the person was voting coleman. There is nothing wrong at all going on here, this process ensures everyone's vote gets counted including Republican votes. Your attempts to slime the recount and imply that Dems are more likely to steal elections than Republicans is laughable.