The setback at the Canvassing Board has forced Al Franken to face the fact that he didn’t get enough valid votes to beat Norm Coleman in Minnesota’s Senate Race. With the rejection of his bid to get the panel to add in thousands of rejected absentee ballots, there seems little chance that the remaining 15% of ballots left in the recount will produce the kind of change that 85% has not. What’s a surly, self-absorbed DFL candidate to do?
Minnesota’s U.S. Senate showdown is veering down a path toward the courts and possibly the Senate itself after a panel’s ruling on rejected absentee ballots dealt a blow to Democrat Al Franken’s chances.
For the first time, his campaign on Wednesday openly discussed mounting challenges after the hand recount involving Franken and Republican Sen. Norm Coleman concludes. That includes the possibility of drawing the Senate into the fracas.
The state Canvassing Board denied Franken’s request to factor absentee ballots rejected by poll workers into the recount. He sought to overturn the exclusions in cases where ballots were invalidated over signature problems or other voter errors. Coleman’s campaign maintained the board lacked power to revisit those ballots.
Going to court was always inevitable. Gone are the days when the loser of a close election would have the class to accept a tough loss and wish the winner well. The recount is automatic in this case, and a good idea, but the notion that courts should determine winners and losers is antithetical to democracy.
More worrisome is this statement from Harry Reid:
The board’s decision drew a response from the Senate’s top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called it a “cause for great concern.”
“As the process moves forward, Minnesota authorities must ensure that no voter is disenfranchised,” Reid said in a statement. “A citizen’s right to have his or her vote counted is fundamental in our democracy.”
The Senate does have the authority to determine the winner of any Senate election, as does House for its elections, but they rarely use that power. Reid’s comment threatens the efforts of Minnesota to provide a non-partisan, fair, and legitimate election. In fact, it sounds like an extortion attempt to push state officials into a particular decision that would violate the law in order to produce a specific partisan result.
We have laws on the books to ensure that voter fraud and manipulation regarding absentee ballots gets avoided to the extent possible. (We don’t have such laws with voter registration, which is another issue entirely.) Each citizen who casts his votes according to the law has the right to have them counted, and that is fundamental to our democracy, but the citizen has the responsibility to cast them properly according to the law. Citizens who fail to do so lose the ability to have their vote count in that election.
Any action by the Senate to render this election to Franken on that basis would have the effect of undermining the rule of law. That will be completely unacceptable to Minnesotans, as it should be to all states. Expect Minnesotans to take action if Reid pursues that path.