Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Minnesota Senate Recount -- update 11

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As expected, Minnesota's State Canvassing Board yesterday certified Al Franken's 225-vote lead over Norm Coleman in that state's Senate recount.

In response, Franken (rightly) declared victory.

Prior to the recount, Coleman had a 215-vote lead, which means that the recount saw a swing of 440 votes in Franken's favour.

But is it over? Well, not yet. Or, it depends whom you ask.

Harry Reid: "There comes a time when you have to acknowledge that the race is over. The race in Minnesota's over. Now it's only a little finger-pointing. The certification by the canvassing board, which has been in process for a number of weeks, now clearly shows that Al Franken has won... Coleman will never ever serve in the Senate. He's lost the election. He can stall things, but he'll never serve in the Senate." (But Franken won't be seated yet.)

Mitch McConnell: "The law in Minnesota requires certification from the secretary of state and that can't happen until the conclusion of all legal battles. It's not over."

Reid's "never ever" comment may have been a bit too strong, and, to be fair, if the roles were reversed, it would be the Democrats demanding that the 650 additional absentee ballots be counted. (It's easy to declare victory when your side is ahead.)

As the Star Tribune points out, the results were "unanimously certified" by the Canvassing Board. Still, Coleman intends to file a so-called "election contest" today, which "will prevent Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, under state law, from officially certifying Franken's election until the legal process has run its course."

And to be clear: "Ritchie made it clear that the board wasn't declaring a winner, just certifying the results emerging from the process of recounting about 2.9 million undisputed ballots, thousands of challenged votes and hundreds of wrongly rejected absentee ballots."

I am happy that Franken won, or appears to have won, or is ahead after the recount -- and I do think that in the end he will be certified the winner -- but at the same time Coleman should not be denied his rights to challenge the results (again, put yourself in the other person's shoes for a moment). Unfortunately, that means that the process, and with it the uncertainty, could drag out for some time, but that's the price to pay in a democracy, where getting it right is more important than getting it done quickly.

We on the Democratic side all wish they'd gotten it right in Florida back in 2000. The same standard should be applied to Minnesota in 2008-09.

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