The truth about the 2008 Minnesota Senate recount, a response to: Democratic party still disenfranchising and oppresing votes
* “More illegal votes from felons were counted than the alleged margin of victory in the Minnesota contest between Norm Coleman and Al Franken.“
Wrong. There was no “alleged margin of victory.” The Minnesota Canvassing Board, a three-judge trial panel, and the Minnesota Supreme Court declared Franken the winner, eventually by 312 votes. The margin of victory was confirmed, not alleged.
Of the 12 judges on those three panels, six were appointed by Republicans, two by Democrats, three by independent Gov. Jesse Ventura, and one ran for an open seat.
After the 2008 election, it was Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie who sent the names of potential voting violators to county attorneys to begin exploring how many former felons registered or voted. He did that long before a conservative watchdog group, Minnesota Majority, sent thousands of unverified felon names to county attorneys.
Indeed, Ritchie sought to tighten felon-voting monitoring before 2008, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, vetoed Ritchie’s reform proposals.
As for the notion that “more illegal felons were counted” than Franken’s margin of victory . . . where does that fact come from?
Fewer than 80 voters in the two most populous counties, which include Minneapolis and St. Paul, have been charged with voting or registering when they were barred by Minnesota law. Not all have been convicted. Meanwhile, a handful of others statewide have been charged. There’s no indication that has added up to 312.
But, even if did, what makes Thielen think all voted for Franken? The first felon convicted of voting illegally admitted to voting for Coleman.
* “Secretary of State Mark Ritchie ended up going back on the election handbook he wrote . . . Ritchie stated under no circumstances should absentee ballots that were rejected on Election Day be considered during a recount. After Franken’s lawyer asked him to do just that, Ritchie allowed it. . . ”
Wrong. Ritchie was one of five members of the State Canvassing Board that, after extensive legal arguments, rejected a rule in his handbook about counting absentee ballots.
It was a judge appointed by Ventura who first accepted the Franken legal team’s argument to include previously and wrongly rejected absentee ballots, and the Republican-appointed Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court who agreed.
The Canvassing Board was convinced by the Minnesota Attorney General – a Democrat – not by Ritchie. A Franken lawyer didn’t “ask” Ritchie to change any rules; the lawyer argued and filed legal documents that the entire Canvassing Board considered and, eventually, agreed with. The Minnesota Supreme Court, with three Republican appointees, eventually upheld the Canvassing Board.
* “During the canvass, in the ‘only’ error in Coleman’s favor, a local election official explained that some votes were double counted, yet under political pressure, the official changed her story.”
Wrong. The double counting of votes was an issue at the election contest trial. That trial lasted seven weeks. Coleman’s lawyers had all the time and freedom to prove their double-counting allegation. They failed.
The one double-counting allegation came from a self-identified Republican election official whose testimony – all hearsay — wasn’t considered credible by the three-judge trial panel.
Minnesota’s recount took 35 weeks. Coleman was represented by able lawyers throughout, including respected Washington, D.C., recount expert Ben Ginsberg, of 2000 Bush v. Gore fame. In the end, Gov. Pawlenty, now a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, signed Franken’s election certificate.
Thielen’s assertions about the Minnesota recount might be heartfelt, but they happen to be false.
Jay Weiner is a writer for MinnPost.com, and the author of “This Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won The Minnesota Senate Recount,” University of Minnesota Press.