Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WSJ’s Fund warns “Minnesota nice” may change soon

Al Franken’s demanding to know the identity of every voter whose absentee ballot was rejected.

The WSJ’s John Fund, an expert in election law, judicial rulings on same and vote fraud is concerned about where the Minnesota Senate seat recount appears to be heading.

Fund reports - - -

… Intent on harvesting absentee ballots, the Franken campaign has presented affidavits from four voters who claim their ballots were improperly rejected. It hopes to find more, now that a Ramsey County judge has agreed to a Franken demand that it have access to data from that county on whose absentee ballots had been rejected.

After initially saying rejected absentee ballots shouldn't be part of the recount, the secretary of state's office now says the information should be made public.

If the absentee names are made public, a mad scramble will ensue to contact those voters and get them to demand their ballots be counted. That's just what happened in the 2004 governor's race in Washington State after King County Judge Dean Lum allowed local Democrats access to the list of provisional voters that hadn't been counted because either there was no signature or no match between the signature and the voter registration on file with officials.

Judge Lum's ruling was criticized by many election lawyers because, in the 2002 Help America Vote Act, Congress stipulated that provisional ballot votes remain private -- a provision mirrored by Washington State's constitution.

But Judge Lum ruled such arguments weren't as important as the need to make sure every vote counted -- an echo of the arguments Democrats made during Florida's 2000 recount.

His ruling set off a partisan hunt for votes. Ryan Bianchi, communications assistant for Ms. Gregoire, told the Seattle Times that Democratic volunteers asked voters if they had cast ballots for Ms. Gregoire. "If they say no, we just tell them to have a nice day," he said. Only if they said yes did Democrats ask if they wanted to make their ballots valid.

Margot Swanson, a voter in Redmond who forgot to sign her ballot, told me she was contacted by phone and asked whom she voted for. When she said Republican Dino Rossi, the caller quickly hung up. "I puzzled out there might be a problem with my ballot, and I found out there was," she said. "But I would never have known from the tricky call I got."

Republicans played catch-up by belatedly using their own phone banks to call voters. But Democrats turned in some 600 written oaths from people declaring how they had intended to vote, and Republicans about 200. Those ballots were all counted, and made the difference in the race. . . .

There’s more before Fund closes with - - -

If the strategy of adding previously rejected ballots to the Minnesota Senate recount is successful, a final outcome could be months away. In 1975, the U.S. Senate refused to accept New Hampshire's certification that Republican Louis Wyman had won by two votes.

The seat was vacant for seven months, with the Senate debate spanning 100 hours and six unsuccessful attempts to break a filibuster and vote on who should be seated. The impasse ended only when a special election was agreed to, which was won by Democrat John Durkin.

Given how critical Minnesota's election is for the outcome of filibusters, don't be surprised if this recount becomes "Washington mean" when the Senate convenes in January.

Fund’s entire column’s here.