Because you all enjoyed it so much the first time around, we citizens of the North Star State are bringing you another recount in a statewide race with far-reaching consequences. This time, the parties involved are Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer.
However, as this piece from Twin Cities TV station KARE-11 explains, not everything’s going to be the same. First off, laws passed in Minnesota since the Franken-Coleman affair recount will eliminate much of the time-eating ballot counting games.
Second off, per the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office (via the StarTribune‘s Rachel E. Stassen-Berger), the general public’s got much better at filling out absentee ballots: the number of rejected absentee ballots is 3,041 — which not only is a small portion of the 128,093 absentee ballots received on time, but is just one-quarter of the number of rejected absentee ballots generated in 2008. When you consider that Dayton won by nearly 9,000 votes, it’s obvious that even if all of these were Emmer ballots, they still would leave Dayton nearly 6,000 ballots ahead.
Third off, county clerks have got better at handling these ballots: Ramsey County elections director Joe Mansky says that his county, the second-most-populated in Minnesota, had only 400 rejected absentee ballots and none that were improperly rejected.
Fourth off, speaking of Joe Mansky, he was on the local Fox affiliate last night, pointing out that all campaigns usually gain votes through a recount as improperly rejected machine ballots are discovered. The most common reason for a ballot’s being wrongly rejected by a machine is the ballot’s being treated as an undervote even though it has obvious and readable (to a human if not a machine) voter intent. In other words, a ballot is most likely to be “flipped” in a recount from “undervote” or “no vote” to a particular candidate; it is almost never flipped from one candidate to another.
Why is that a big deal? Because the Emmer campaign’s busy pretending that they just have to flip 4500 or so Dayton votes to Emmer votes to take the lead, when that is simply not possible. As Jeff Rosenberg writes, Emmer’s team will have to have 15 to 16 times as many legitimate vote challenges as the Coleman side found in 2008 to pull this off, and it ain’t gonna happen, not unless another 100,000 votes overall get pulled out of Tony Sutton’s butt or some other undisclosed location.
This all could be why, as reported by MinnPost’s Jay Weiner, Tom Emmer’s campaign has suddenly seemingly told hotheaded Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Tony Sutton — he of the failing taco empire-cum-turkey-farm for conservatives, he who called several respected Minnesota Republican leaders and former legislators “quislings” for backing Tom Horner over the far-right TheoCon Tea Party endorsee Emmer — to go sit in the corner while the grownups got to work:
This morning, Republican Emmer, still officially 8,751 votes behind Mark Dayton, announced that he has hired former Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson, known for his quiet gravitas, as his “chief litigator.” Magnuson, a former law partner of Gov. Tim Pawlenty — who appointed him — left the bench last summer, after just 27 months as the chief. He cited “personal” issues, but he was also involved in a few unpopular decisions … unpopular to Republicans, that is.
…Denise Cardinal, the spokesperson for the Dayton recount effort, was skeptical. She said, “It looks to me like they’re gearing up for a protracted legal challenge — not a careful recount.”
And, certainly, Magnuson is known mostly for his appeals court talents. The man wasn’t hired to just read documents and tell Emmer to quit.
As Weiner (who was the guest of honor at a recent FDL Book Salon) reminds us, Magnuson was on the State Canvassing Board during the Franken-Coleman recount. Magnuson, who got his gig as Chief Justice because he was Tim Pawlenty’s old law partner, managed to show class and fairness throughout the whole 2008 and 2009 recount process. He has fans among many Democratic-leaning judges and he and progressive Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie have a mutual admiration society going. It was Magnuson who decided that wrongly rejected absentee ballots should be part of the 2008 recount, one of his many decisions that gave heartburn to movement Republicans like Tony Sutton, who spent most of last week reviving old smears against the Canvassing Board and by extension Magnuson, implying that they “rolled” the Minnesota GOP in 2008.
Will Magnuson the lawyer behave similarly to Magnuson the Supreme Court Justice? Can’t say for sure, but somehow I doubt he’d have signed on with Team Emmer if Tony Sutton was still being allowed to slime and smear members of the Minnesota judiciary.
Lastly, the recount, which is scheduled to start on November 29 — unless Emmer and/or the Minnesota GOP realize that it’s pointless to have one — will proceed without the presence of the ever-popular (not!) Ben Ginsberg, he who was one of the chief vectors of the anti-judicial slams that Sutton’s been regurgitating. Seems that Mr. Ginsberg’s busy helping Lisa Murkowski fend off teabagger Republican candidate Joe Miller in Alaska. Too bad, so sad.
UPDATE: Tony the Toddler may have been sent to sit silently in the corner, but Tom Emmer, who Magnuson will likely not allow to lie about anyone Eric Magnuson personally knows and has worked with, is apparently still allowed to lie about other things:
Today, Emmer was asked:
Q: Do you think there were serious problems in Hennepin County?
A: There was something going on that no one really understands yet.
That’s not true. We do understand what happened. It was explained in mind-numbing detail by Hennepin County elections manager Rachel Smith to MPR’s Brandt Williams: A computer operator mistakenly updated a database the wrong way, and the vote tally for a specific Plymouth precinct was doubled.
Election officials caught the mistake shortly after 10 p.m., were open about it with reporters, and had it fixed in about an hour. The upshot: Emmer gained 60,000 votes once the mistake was corrected.
Since then, like all counties, it has audited its results. And they’ve been certified by the County Canvassing Board. In the final count, Emmer picked up another six votes.
But of course Emmer, as so many Tea Party Republicans are wont to do, just doubled down on the lies:
We’ll make sure those questions that exist — military ballots, absentee ballots, the issue in Hennepin County [where there is] about a 200,000-400,000 vote mistake — I think you’ve just got to let the process play itself out.
That’s bullshit and he knows it. As I’ve already stated, there are far fewer rejected absentee ballots this year than in 2008. But that obviously won’t stop him from bloviating, will it?