With Saxby Chambliss’s win in his Georgia Senate race, the last remaining undecided Senate race is the Minnesota contest between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. It’s important (if not as important as it could have been, as Chambliss’s victory means that the Democrats will not get a filibuster-proof majority), as Coleman is a reliable Republican, while the thought of Senator Al Franken is the stuff of conservative nightmares.
The whole election is a mess. The original vote was close enough (only a few hundred votes separated the candidates) to justify a recount. Then a voting official discovered—whoops—that she had accidently left a couple dozen absentee ballots in the backseat of her car. Most of those ballots favored Franken.
Some voters are idiots for whom the task of deciphering a ballot is like cracking the Rosetta Stone, and Minnesota has its fair share of disputable ballots. So both campaigns hit upon the idea of challenging as many ballots as possible, in the hope that at least some of their challenges would stick. This led to some absolutely absurd challenges, many of which clearly were intended to disqualify legal ballots. (Decide for yourself—here are some disputed ballots).
Coleman’s lead is around 340 votes with 91% in—but officials have discovered just under two hundred more votes that everyone just kind of forgot about. It seems that the voting machines broke, and the vote counters forgot to reenter these votes. )These votes come from pro-Franken areas).
And Franken is complaining about another twelve thousand (give or take a few thousand) absentee ballots that he thinks were improperly rejected, and should be recounted.
So this election is a mess. And won’t be decided soon.
Both candidates claim to be confident about their chances—Norm Coleman has declared victory at least three times, and Franken’s campaign claims that it has no doubt that Franken got more votes. For what it’s worth, Coleman is probably right here—his lead has grown in the course of the recount, and Franken is running out of both votes and options. So Coleman is will probably win—but this saga represents a problem bigger than just the results of a Senate race.
One of the foundations of our democracy is the notion that one’s vote matters; that every vote is equal under the law. In the absence of this principle, democracy is meaningless. In order for democracy to function, people must believe that their vote matters, and will be counted. And it seems that many people are becoming skeptical that their votes will be accurately recorded, and with good reason.
In 2000, the Florida recount was a mess—and it is still an open question as to which candidate received the most votes. It is simply embarrassing that a presidential election came down to a legal technicality decided by the Supreme Court. That sort of fiasco undermines voter confidence.
(That fact that the Florida election was mishandled doesn’t mean that Bush shouldn’t have won—according to the letter of the law, he should have, and his victory was legitimate. The fault lay with those who devised Florida’s voting procedures, and made the recount necessary).
Voter registration is a major issue as well. ACORN managed to sign up thousands of ineligible voters, while escaping any repercussions for years. Granted, the vast majority of those registrations were rejected—but some surely must have slipped past, and those few could make a difference in a close election. But nobody cares—ACORN got a black eye over its voter fraud—but that was due mostly to its relationship with Obama, and it retained enough support to stay in existence.
It’s a standard far-left talking point that voting machines are basically rigged towards the Republican party. This doesn’t seem to be the case, or the Official GOP Vote Riggers really fell down on the job in 2006 and 2008, but there is little doubt that voting machines have some major security holes.
In eight years, there have been no less than two elections for national office decided by extraordinarily sloppy recounts. That isn’t acceptable, especially for the world’s largest democracy. The United States should reform its voting system quickly—or risk seeing the American people lose faith in American democracy.