(From the diaries. Anyone would be hard pressed to come up with a better recap of the state of the Minnesota recount -- kos)
Yumpin' yimminy, uffda! By the beard of St. Olaf EVERYTHING happened yesterday in the great Minnesota Recount: Canvassing Board, ballots of every species, attorneys, an attorney general, people coming out in 20 degree weather to cram the hearing room carrying signs and buttons "Count every vote"! New and old media acting like journalists, Kossacks putting up diaries on the front page (that skinny Kos kid did one again; man does George Soros like him or what?), bloggers blogging AND:
Al Franken's prospects for Senate took such a definite turn for the better that the Coleman campaign has gone to court (a sure sign a Repub. is losing? Batting average the past 8 years says YES.)
Recap and next steps right under the fold of (recount) infinity.....and beyond.
Cast members for this episode:
State Canvassing Board: (reprinted from v. 1.1 of this series--yikes!)
a) Eric Magnuson, Chief Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court.
Appointed June, 2008 by Gov. Pawlenty. Former head of Pawlenty's judicial appointment advisory board.
b) G. Barry Anderson, Associate Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court. Appointed October, 2004 by Pawlenty. Prior: Minnesota Court of Appeals (appointed 1998 by Gov. Arne Carlson (R-normal/moderate). In 2006, state GOP endorsed him for election to bench and Anderson rejected the honor, saying "partisan political endorsements are neither appropriate nor helpful in maintaining an impartial judiciary."
c) Kathleen Gearin, Chief Judge, Ramsey County. (Ramsey county is city of St. Paul, state capitol). First elected 1986.
Prior: 11 years as a county prosecutor, 4 years social studies teacher. (Coleman campaign filed suit in her court on Saturday 11/15 to block counting of 32 absentee ballots in Hennepin County (Minneapolis). Gearin dismissed suit in 6 hours, stating she did not have jurisdiction. Oddly enough, Coleman campaign did NOT re-file in a Hennepin County court.)
d) Edward Cleary, Assistant Chief Judge, Ramsey County. Appointed 2002 by Gov. Ventura (Indep.--very independent). Prior: director, 5 years, state Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. Public defender and private practice for 20 years.
e) Mark Ritchie (D), Secretary of State, Minnesota. Chief elections officer.
- The Board heard from Minneapolis Elections Director Cindy Reichert about the missing 133 ballots. She ran down everything they could think of to find them and described their ballot and recount process, winding up with: “We determined definitively the ballots were missing.” While that sounds obvious it is in flat opposition to the Coleman camp's contention that these 133 ballots never existed in the first place (the germ of the idea behind the Reich-wing ranting about "creating votes.")
The Board talked it over and then voted 5-0 that the 133 ballots are IN, thanks to the sign-in voter books and the machine tapes that recorded them. Most reports say this means a net gain to FRANKEN of +46. Starting from the 192 margin Coleman was holding last Friday, this would mean the difference is now 146.
5-0 huh? Man in Minnesota, the State of Hockey, 5-0 is a major shellacking, and it is also by this Board. Sure Coleman can take it to court (and say they are prepared to do so) but I seriously doubt a Minnesota court (or even a Federal Court) is going to overturn a 5-0 decision by a Board that includes 2 MN Supreme Court justices and has the sole task and total focus on finishing this election right. The Franken side would have the Board's unanimous decision, precedent from other Minnesota elections, strong evidence (the sign-in logs and machine tapes) if not "best evidence" (which, if we would have the 133 ballots NONE of this would be in court), and the "voter intent" standard on its side for defense. No way. These 133 votes are in, counted, and broke +46 for Franken. Over and out.
From the Sec. of State's Office: 8:00pm CT 12/12/08 Friday eve.
Total Ballots reported counted since start of recount: 100.00% ALL PRECINCTS IN, but NOT FINAL (Challenged & Rej. Absentee yet to come.)
Coleman 1,208,935= -2655 from election night in these same precincts.
Franken 1,208,747= -2628 from election night in these same precincts.
BOTH candidates have apparently lost votes on the recount, but this is a net swing TO Al Franken of 27 votes
SO the simple math is Coleman's lead at the start 215-27= 188
This number also does NOT include the net +46 swing to Franken from the famous 133 missing ballots. On the other hand this is a net move to Franken of 4 from the 192 holding the last week. My guess is this is the beginning of adjustments from withdrawn challenges
- Oh and remember when Reichert and Team were looking for the missing 133 and they found another ballot envelope of 20 absentee ballots? (Or maybe 12.....maybe military ballots....maybe overseas; still a bit murky on how this has shaken out.) Well it would seem likely those 12 will be added to the Minneapolis total but not right away. The Board ammended its motion on the 133 and also said (perforce 5-0) that these 12 should be added to the Minneapolis "5th pile"....which is not too bad a move.
The Coleman side will definitely want to hear the whole story of just how these 12 were lost and found. I don't blame them one bit for that and I think Reichert should be called to task over them as well. If she comes out of this election and recount with a black mark about anything in my book its not the lost 133 but these badly handled 12.....really seems sloppy in my book. By sheer dumb luck they were recovered and look like they'll get counted but it shouldn't hinge on luck. Something went badly wrong and Reichert and her people (with maybe an assist from Ritchie's office) need to figure it out and take steps to prevent a repeat (and maybe add a procedure or 2 for statewide use so other places won't go through the same slip-ups.)
- As of the Board meeting this morning 4472 challenged ballots are still facing the Board starting Tuesday. (Thats down from 6655 but a long way to go.) Gearin spoke for the Board: warning both campaigns that challenges need to be serious and that neither side should be playing games; "I hope both sides are respecting every single ballot that they see."
(What a great way to phrase that: "respecting every ballot"--as in respecting the voter who voted it, and respecting the will of the people who are in charge of this here democracy.
Hear, hear, Judge Gearin! Doffs hat in salute.)
From the Pioneer Press the Sec. of State mentioned the challenged ballots rather pointedly:
The board encouraged the campaigns to further withdraw frivolous challenges. Ritchie, in particular, had harsh words for both camps, saying they should spend less time filing legal briefs with the board and more time reducing frivolous challenges.
"I'm not happy about this," Ritchie said.
At end of Meeting Board closed by again reminding both camps to cut down challenged ballots. ("spend less time filing legal briefs...and more time reducing frivolous challenges"--Oh yeah! Just what anybody has wanted to say to a public lawyer at least once in life! Thank you Mr. Ritchie for laying on the smack for all of us.)
Word in the afternoon is Franken side is dropping 750 more challenged ballots bringing their total down to about 1100. Board total (also accounting for Coleman's 225 reduction yesterday) is now 3497 this afternoon.
Board plans to start in on challenged ballots Tues. 12/16 and hopes to finish by Friday 12/19....Ritchie says they are willing to go longer for accuracy's sake but this is the goal.
For those of you utterly condemned to their parents' basements, TheUpTake says they will live stream (!) the Board ruling on the challenged ballots one by one starting on the 16th. Paint Drying Channel? Fireplace Log Burning Network? You've got competition!
Rejected Absentee Ballots
- After its opening salvo on challenged ballots the Board waived attorney-client privilege and released the opinion they had received from Attorney General Lori Swanson and passed out copies in the hearing room.
In brief, county and city election boards/ Canvassing Board should count the "5th pile" ballots IF both campaigns sign off on it in writing. (MN Atty General Swanson: "There is no doubt that voters who have complied with all legal requirements, but whose ballots were improperly rejected, should have their votes counted." )
Obviously either campaign can refuse to sign off (any guesses who might NOT want every vote counted?) but as WCCO (TV/Radio-Minneapolis) adds in their story:
The (Atty. Gen.) opinion laid out several options for getting the ballots into the count, some involving court action and others through administrative means. It says that the campaigns are free to seek court orders to compel counties to take part.
So its sounds like Attorney General Swanson would LIKE both camps to play nice, but also thinks if they don't, either campaign (like one who WANTS every vote counted) could go to court on their own to get a court order to force it.
- Ritchie reports to Board that so far the Sec. of State's office is aware of 638 improperly rejected absentee ballots out of over 4000 such ballots examined so far across the state. By extrapolation at the moment this goes over 1500 statewide.
Deputy Sec. of State Gelbmann gives Board a report from city of Duluth: 127 absentees rejected because officials said the signatures did not have a date with them as well. As everyone started reviewing these ballots last week those same officials had a "read the F manual" moment and looked it up in their election board guidebooks and also checked Minnesota election Law. Result: no such requirement, so according to Gelbmann those 127 absentee ballots should be counted. (Good news for Franken! Duluth is very strongly Democratic. Between the Democratic drive to have voters vote absentee this year (10% did in MN, a new record) and the natural Democratic advantage in Duluth, Franken could very easily and realistically carry those 127 by 90-25-12 (F, C, & Barkley) for a pickup of +75. We'll see.)
- Board votes 5-0 to urge county boards to sort their rejected absentees into the 5 piles, 4 rejected for each of 4 statutory reasons and the 5th for "other." They did NOT order/compel/require the county & city boards to do so, since in the AG's opinion they do not have that authority. However this vote backs up Ritchie's Dec. 1 letter to the boards to do likewise and opens the door to filing for court orders (which WOULD order/compel/require the boards to sort.)
To facilitate the review of challenged ballots, the State Recount Official is directed to open the challenged ballot envelopes to remove those challenged ballots which have been withdrawn by each of the two candidates or their representatives. The State Recount Official shall report to the Board the allocation of votes resulting from the withdrawal of these challenges.
The withdrawn challenged ballots shall be sealed into separately labeled envelopes for return to the jurisdiction from whence they were received.
The State Recount Official will arrange for this process to occur in an appropriate room and at an appropriate time and shall inform the candidates and the public of the time and location so that they may observe if they so desire. The State Recount Official may designate any member of the staff of the Office of the Secretary of State to assist in this task.
The remaining challenged ballots shall be sealed into separately labeled envelopes by jurisdiction from whence they were received and be kept secure for review by the Board.
Blogger "chris" over at TheUptake summarizes nicely:
Counties are not complying because they are risk adverse. The SoS only asked them to count and many do not want to appear to be favoring one candidate or another. Today's decision gives them more cover and I expect most will comply.
- Sec. of State Mark Ritchie held a presser right after the Board meeting broke up. Asked if county boards would continue to not sort since he can't order them and the Board can't either. Ritchie: Most of the county boards he's spoken to are "eager to get it right"..........So far Ramsey, Washington, Freeborn, Sherburne and Itasca counties have not been sorting per Ritchie's letter (and others may have been holding back too) all waiting on today's Board meeting. Having heard it they may move on it......
8) Both Camps' Reaction to Board Meeting
Andy Barr of the Al Franken campaign:
"We are pleased that the state canvassing board has affirmed what we always believed to be true: Minnesota is not a state that disenfranchises its voters. Today's decisions represent positive and productive steps towards ensuring that this election is decided fairly and accurately, as well as a complete rejection of the Coleman campaign's effort to throw out lawful votes from Minnesotans."
Mike McIntee: Noah reports that the Coleman campaign representative Mark Drake was generally unavailable to the media to day. He gave some statements to a few reporters and left.
9)Saturday Morning Fallout
Lawyers Dueling with Light Sabers VI
(H/t to Minnesota Independent for offering their ship for the duel)
Knaak for Coleman, going to MN Supreme Court to stop 87 counties + cities from sorting & counting rejected absentees (2 hand, overhead swing):
"Complaining in a statement this afternoon that “[A]dvocates for the Franken campaign stood outside [the meeting] with signs reminiscent of Florida in 2000,” Coleman attorney Fritz Knaak asserted:
[T]here is [sic] no longer any uniform, statutory levels or standards by which legally rejected absentee ballots are being considered and reviewed in Minnesota.”
Full statement and letters to counties here:http://www.colemanforsenate.com/...
Elias for Franken (shower of sparks)
in a conference call with reporters:
“There is a uniform counting standard in Minnesota: It is the election code of Minnesota. ... They are hoping to run out the clock. ... I don’t know what the Supreme Court or the state would say except, ‘Read the election code.’”
Knaak (crossed light beams inches from his face, heard in his 1st 5 words)
Although Minnesota law is clear on the grounds upon which absentee ballots may be rejected, a strong likelihood exists that these standards will be interpreted differently by each county that engages in this process ...
Elias: (spin move, straight arm gesture and the "Force" sends Knaak skidding across the floor)
The move represented a “change in perspective” for Knaak, pointing to Knaak’s reported Nov. 26 statements that the number of wrongly rejected ballots (now estimated by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to be between 1,000–2,000 statewide) would be “miniscule” and break both ways, and that such ballots should be counted.
Scary Thought Department
At several sites the bloggers have brought up the following, perfectly reasonable yet a political junkie's dream come true:
The county & city boards start publicly opening their "5th pile" ballots to count them....in the presence of observers from both camps....who can then CHALLENGE (un-frivolously of course) balltos that have a stray/identifying mark, lack a lizard scale, etc.
Thats right. The 1500+ rejected absentee ballots that are being UN-rejected are subject to challenge just like any other ballots......fortunately most of them will be over and done with, but still......thats the Law.
Well this morning's Star Trib hasn't arrived yet but I think this may cover it anyway. MUST have coffee X 2 so I'll put it up with the latest from yust southeast of Lake Wobegon.