Fox News’ Megyn Kelly interviewed Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty about the recount situation here in Minnesota. Kelly has the same skepticism about the developments here as do the rest of us — and as it turns out, so does Pawlenty:
MEGYN KELLY: In the meantime, we have significant developments from Minnesota this morning in the still undecided US Senate race. As it stands today, Democratic challenger Al Franken trails GOP incumbent Norm Coleman by just 206 votes, 206, triggering an automatic hand recount to begin next week. That 206 number is down from 725 just last week. Election officials say typos and clerk errors are to blame for the difference, but some folks are worried that voter fraud may be at play here. This past weekend, dozens of the uncounted absentee ballots were reportedly found in the trunk of one official’s car, and they have been added to the tally, they’ve been counted. Joining us now with more is Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: Good morning Kelly, it’s good to be with you.
KELLY: Good to have you. I look at the examples of what’s gone on here the one that jumped out to me, not only the car, but you’ve got an exhausted elections clerk who accidently claims to have underwritten Franken’s vote by one hundred. Franken gets one hundred votes because someone said he was too tired and he changes his number?
GOV. PAWLENTY: Any discussion today should first of all start with a thank-you to our veterans. They’ve given their all to secure our freedoms and liberties and privileges, one of those is voting. Thank you to our veterans on this Veteran’s Day. As to the process you are describing, Minnesota has a great reputation for high voter turnout and electoral integrity, but there are some strange things that have occurred or at least concerning things that need to be looked at. The one that you mentioned about the ballots in the trunk of the car would be a leading example. There have been other examples, even though this is a 50/50 race, the changes seem to disproportionately, overwhelmingly favor Al Franken, the democratic candidate, so that is cause for concern, seems to be out of proportion with the general voter trends. So those things are going to have to be looked at.
KELLY: They sure do. Just looking at the numbers, reportedly the gains for Al Franken in these counties versus the gains for Norm Coleman, Franken got 2.5 times the gain that Barack Obama did on the ballot, when they recounted it, he got 2.9 times the gain that Democrats got in the congressional races, and he got 5 times with the democrats got in the state house races. In other words, when they do need recounts, he is benefiting disproportionately compared to the other democrats on the ballot.
GOV. PAWLENTY: That raises the concern, of course like we said the race over all is 50/50, but even if you are in an overwhelmingly democratic area of the state, you might think the breakdown would be like 60/40 or 70/30 in favor of the Democrat, not 90 or 100% favoring Democratic candidate Al Franken. Those kind of statistical aberrations raise some concerns and that’s why people are scrambling to make sure that we have the process transparent, secure and reliable. The acceptance of this result is going to depend on the fairness of the process, obviously.
KELLY: What about these 32 ballots found in this guy’s car? How do those get counted?
GOV. PAWLENTY: As I understand it, and this is based on news accounts, he claims that even though they were in his car, that they were never out side of his security or area of control, so the courts allowed that. It seems a little loose to me.
KELLY: What were they doing in his car?
GOV. PAWLENTY: There has not been a good explanation for that Kelly, that’s a very good question, but they’ve been included in the count pile which is concerning.
KELLY: Yea, I can see why. Let me ask before you go, a judge in Stearns County has ordered a procedure for protecting the ballots. The ballots should remain under lock and key in a room that can only be entered by two or more members of an auditor’s staff and you’ve got to keep a detailed log of who goes in and who goes out. Franken’s people are objecting to that?
GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, that’s a great model. We want to have a uniform standard for ballot security. That court and that county did a good example of articulating what that means and defining what that means. I think urging the rest of the counties, like I did yesterday and others have, to adopt those procedures would be wise. The two campaigns are trying to agree on that, but they haven’t yet. Norm Coleman’s campaign has been urging that and so far the Franken campaign has not agreed as far as I know.
KELLY: Wow. Well, the hand recount does not even begin until November 18, so we could be into the next congress before we know what the ultimate senate total this. In any event, Governor Tim Pawlenty, you guys have your hands full in Minnesota. Good luck with it.
GOV. PAWLENTY: It’s always interesting. Thanks Kelly.
As I reported today, ballots from at least one precinct in Hennepin County (strong Franken territory) already violated that proposed rule. There is no reason to object to the custodial rules that Coleman has proposed, unless one wants unregulated access to ballots before recounts — and that would certainly challenge the motives of Franken and his team. King Banaian rightly notes today that custodial practices should be the focus of Minnesotans, as so far they have proven far short of what we should expect from our elections officials.
It appears that the results will get certified as a Coleman victory by 206 votes. The recounts will start after that, probably on November 19th. We’ll keep a close eye on the story. Readers can also check the new blog, Minnesota Recount, from the NRSC to keep up with new developments.