Constitution Daily

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Minnesota elections: “To vouch or not to vouch”

December 3, 2010 by Steve Pasche


On November 2, 2010, Democrat Mark Dayton emerged from the election with a slim lead over Republican Tom Emmer in the Minnesota governor’s race.  The vote margin was so narrow, that it was not surprising that a state canvassing board recently announced that there will be a recount.  The final outcome might not even be known in time for the next governor to be sworn in on the scheduled date of January 3, 2011.

The governor's race isn't the only Minnesota election to require a recount:

Al Franken and Norm Coleman

As many people may remember it was just two short years ago that Senate rivals Norm Coleman and Al Franken squared off in a hotly contested race that required an automatic hand count of ballots at taxpayer expense.

In the 2008 Minnesota Senate race it was Norm Coleman the Republican candidate who emerged from Election Day with the slightest of leads over Democrat Al Franken.  That recount centered primarily upon roughly 12,000 absentee ballots, some of which were ruled to be wrongly rejected.  After state election officials and aides from both sides poured over roughly 2.9 million ballots, the recount swung about 500 votes back in Franken’s favor.  It was enough to make Franken the victor.

In Minnesota, since Dayton’s lead is less than one-half a percentage point the only way a recount could have been averted was by a court order or a concession by Tom Emmer. Given that even Dayton concurred with his opponent that a recount would be entirely appropriate, state officials will once again pour over all of the 2,106,994 ballots.  This event will play out at more than 300 tables in 87 counties around the state of Minnesota.

In what will likely be the most interesting aspect of this recount The Minnesota Republican Party is seeking a “reconciliation” of the state’s vote totals and the total number of actual registered voters that signed in at the polling stations. The deadline for reconciliation is December 15, 2010.

In 2008, it took almost eight months for reconciliation to happen.  According to Minnesota’s Secretary of State Mark Ritchie there were slightly less than 30,000 more votes cast in 2008 than there were registered voters.  That’s roughly one percent of the entire voting pool.

To vouch or not to vouch

Part of what plays into this discrepancy is system of “vouching.”  In Minnesota if someone was not able to preregister, and does not have proof of residence, they can still vote if a registered voter from the same precinct will vouch for them.  So how do we Minnesotans encourage voter participation and yet eliminate the discrepancies which may or may not be fraud?

That is a delicate question.  Some have called for picture IDs.  In a world with so much technology, you’d think that we could find some easy solutions.  As an optimist who sees the glass as half-full, my hope is that these tight elections will result in positive change moving forward.

So how will all of this play out?

Remember that back on November 3, 1998, Minnesotans elected a former professional wrestler who ran on the Reform Party ticket.  His name was Jesse Ventura.  A dark horse candidate, Ventura aced out Norm Coleman, who had just changed parties, running on the Republican ticket, and “Skip” Humphrey the Democratic candidate.  Before this all plays out there is sure to be lots of wrestling in Minnesota’s political arena.

I would make the plea to all Americans to get out and vote when elections come around.  In Minnesota there was a drastic decline in voter participation, from 2008 to 2010.  It was estimated that only about 55% of Minnesotans participated in this year’s midterm elections.  A drop from roughly 2.9 million votes to roughly 2.1 million votes is pretty disturbing considering what is at stake.  As the old cliché goes, “every vote counts!”

Pasche is a Social Studies school teacher in Hawley, Minnesota

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