Schumer accuses GOP of trying to muck up Minn. recount

Norm Coleman's lead over Al Franken is shrinking, and the recount hasn't even started yet; Republicans cry foul, but are they just trying to derail the count?

Published November 13, 2008 11:40PM (EST)

With Sen. Norm Coleman’s seat dangling by the thinnest of threads, Republicans say they're getting antsy about the vote-counting process up north. And now, according to the Hill, the chief of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Chuck Schumer, has accused the GOP of trying to discredit the counting-and-recounting process.

Says Schumer, “The right wing has worked itself into a lather in a clear attempt to intimidate election officials from doing their job … I have news for those seeking to intimidate the process: Minnesota is not Florida.”

Because shifts in the count have slashed the margin between Al Franken and Coleman from 725 votes to 204, Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan asked on Friday that “local and state election officials provide us with the necessary data to reassure the public that the canvassing process has not been tainted.” Schumer also noted that controversial former Federal Elections Commission member Hans von Spakovsky has made the same point. (Read a post by von Spakovsky at the Heritage Foundation's blog here.)

There’s nothing approaching clear evidence of funny business. But even if there were, there’s a sense in which Sheehan and von Spakovsky’s complaints are irrelevant. No discoveries of new votes are going to prevent a complete recount, so the fluctuating vote count at the moment doesn't mean a lot. What this looks like, instead, is an attempt to discredit the entire post-election process. Hence, von Spakovsky’s description of the impending recount itself:

Should we be worried about what is going on here? Should we be worried that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is an ACORN-endorsed official who was elected in 2006 with considerable help from the Secretary of State Project, a liberal 527 organization whose goal is to control secretary of state offices throughout the nation? Should we be worried that the SoS Project called Ritchie the most “progressive” secretary of state in the nation? Or that in 2003 he led National Voice, a voting coalition sponsored by radical organizations like, Greenpeace and the National Council of Churches?

No matter how much the final vote tally shrinks before it is certified, there will be a recount. A key factor in that recount may be Minnesota Statute 204C.22, which says that a “ballot shall not be rejected for a technical error that does not make it impossible to determine the voter’s intent.” In other words, it seems that Ritchie and other local election officials may have the final say in determining voter “intent” on questionable ballots. I guess it will just be a funny coincidence if those determinations all seem to follow the same incredible pattern as the “corrections” to the vote count have so far in Minnesota, i.e., the “intent” always favoring Franken in the recount.

Left out is the fact that the “other local election officials” who work with Ritchie in determining voter intent on challenged ballots are, by law, drawn from both parties.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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