Time and again, while Ritchie has packaged his actions under a façade of Minnesota nice, they are those of a fierce partisan who uses his official position to manipulate the process in favor of candidates from his own party.
And in spite of the factual and public record with regard to Mr. Ritchie, Jay Weiner, a self-described sportswriter who got interested in the 2008 Minnesota recount chooses to attack me and the Republican National Lawyer’s Association (RNLA) for daring to question Ritchie.
The approach seemingly makes sense as Weiner does have some degree of naiveté concerning politics and a lack of legal background, which certainly is relevant when dealing with election law.
Rather than dissect Weiner’s article in response to one I wrote recently, which was published in The Hill, I will highlight some of the most glaring and egregious errors made by Weiner. Furthermore, I felt it was important to respond considering Minnesota is again in a recount under the same state elections official, Ritchie.
First, Weiner completely dismisses Ritchie’s own partisan leanings, which any neutral observer would find troubling. For example, Weiner admits (emphasis mine): Ritchie “rejected a rule in his handbook about counting absentee ballots.”
The facts are that Ritchie rejected the rule that he himself wrote and approved pre-election because it was not favorable to his candidate, Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame MORE, post-election. If Ritchie had a problem with HIS handbook, why did he not fix it before the election? Otherwise, why bother having rules at all?
Secondly, Weiner's ignorance on felon voting is stunning, as he writes: “what makes Thielen think all [felons] voted for Franken?” First, I did not say that. I did state there were more illegal felon votes than the margin of victory, which is true when you look at just two counties, for example, Hennepin and Ramsey County where there are a total of 341. But taking his point, any expert on the left or right will agree that felons overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
For additional information, Weiner needed to look no further than his own state which a few years back researched the issue. Liberal, pro-felon vote advocate University of Minnesota criminologist Christopher Uggen suggested that convicted felons could provide a boost to the Democratic ticket because more than 70% prefer Democrats.
People can honestly disagree whether felons should be given their rights back in regard to owning firearms and voting, but it is difficult to argue whom they support at the ballot box. The fact remains that felon voting was illegal and did happen in numbers greater than the slim margin of victory in 2008.
Lastly, Weiner is not a lawyer and it is quite obvious he does not fully comprehend election law. In an election contest, the burden is on the losing party from the recount. This burden is substantial and critical in every decision as Courts set a high standard to overturn the decisions of election officials. Thus, Ritchie and other Democratic election officials made numerous, pro-Franken decisions, which had a great influence on the contest phase.
Returning to my first example, Ritchie, by breaking his own rules in allowing the counting of rejected absentee ballots during the recount instead of during the contest, switched the burden to Coleman to prove the ballots were wrongly counted after being rejected, rather than Franken having to argue in court they were wrongly rejected.
This distinction becomes even more important when one realizes Ritchie also created chaos with this decision by not providing a uniform standard for review and in response, some counties led by Democratic officials found in the recount that they wrongly rejected ballots mostly for Franken, while Republican officials thought their decisions made the first time under the rules, when no one was thinking about a recount or how it affected a candidate, were correct.
Franken’s lawyers knew the burden would be difficult to overcome and fortunately for them, they had an ally in the Secretary of State’s office.
So yes, Mr. Wiener, I will say Franken “won” the recount by an alleged total of 312 votes, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily believe he won the election. I understand you wrote a book on the Coleman-Franken recount, but judging by your one-sided, naive comments, I will not hold my breath that it exhibits any truth in writing.
Michael Thielen is executive director of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA).