Minnesota Senate Recount, Update IV

There’s not much news from the weekend. With 73 percent of ballots recounted, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office shows Norm Coleman with a 25,384-vote lead over former comedian Al Franken. That doesn’t mean much, since the precincts that haven’t finished recounting yet are mostly in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, tracking changes against original vote totals, has Coleman with a 180-vote lead. So the race is heading for a photo finish, with litigation over rejected absentee ballots likely to decide the outcome.

The recount has been, on the whole, an impressive exercise in democracy. There have been a few glitches and anomalies here and there, but the process has brought a remarkable degree of care, scrupulousness, time and money to bear on the task at hand. I can’t help noting, though, that what we are doing, in part, is carefully and scrupulously tabulating and recounting every ballot that was cast illegally on November 4.

Minnesota makes no serious effort to prevent voter fraud. It has been reported that one-quarter of all the votes cast in Hennepin County, the state’s largest, were same-day registrations. In most instances, not only are voters not required to show identification, it is illegal to ask them for it. So we have no way of knowing how many non-citizens voted; or how many students from Wisconsin voted there, then crossed the border to vote again in a college town in Minnesota; or how many people voted in another state and also cast an absentee ballot in Minnesota, or vice versa; or how many felons voted; or how many fictitious people registered by ACORN, the voter fraud organization that put on a major push in Minnesota this year, ostensibly showed up to vote; or how many residents of nursing homes voted without having any idea they had done so; or how many voted in two or more Minnesota precincts; or how many people voted for themselves and also for someone who they knew had died or moved out of a precinct by election day; or how many Franken ballots were slipped into voting machines by Democratic election judges when no one was looking. There is no way, at this point, to separate the legitimate ballots from those that were cast illegally. The legal and the illegal, the real and the fake, are being counted with equal precision.

Voter fraud is easy. It usually isn’t a big problem only because for most people, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. But when a Senate election is decided by a few hundred votes or even less, no one can seriously deny that illegally-cast ballots far exceeded the winner’s margin of victory. The vast majority of illegally-cast ballots are for Democratic candidates, which is why Republicans want to tighten up ballot security by requiring voters to show identification, while Democrats consistently block any such reforms, as they have here in Minnesota. Thus, if Al Franken wins, he will have stolen his Senate seat through fraud which it is too late, at this point, to correct.

Or, put another way: if we had devoted a fraction of the care and scrupulousness that we are now devoting to the recount to the election on November 4, we would not be in this situation, and Norm Coleman would be on his way back to Washington.

It’s a sobering thought. All those who value democracy should join in hoping that Al Franken’s effort to overturn the result of the Senate election falls short.

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