Just Because Norm’s Appeal Reeks Doesn’t Mean It’s Wrong

(Guest post from Joe Loveland)

Defending an extension of the ceaseless Minnesota Senate recount is about as popular as defending an extension of the sitcom Cavemen.

But count me in. I support Senator Coleman’s appeal questioning whether absentee ballots were judged by varying standards in the counties.scales-of-justice

By the way, this is not to say that I think the appeal is wise from a PR and political standpoint. If the Senator wants to score sorely needed PR points, he obviously should pull out with a teary eyed “for the good of the state” speech. If he some day wants to run for Governor, or even Soil and Water Conservation District, he should pull out. Heck, if he just wants to avoid a stoning in the public square – and I’m not talking about the Hofstra kind of stoning, dude – he should pull out.

But if differing election law standards have been applied to the absentee ballots in the various counties, Senator Coleman certainly has the right to raise that question in the appeals court. In fact, he has a responsibility to do it.

Look, I don’t want to go all powder wiggy on you here, but there is a pretty good reason we have a Constitution. We have a Constitution to ensure that, among other things, the the laws passed by various jurisdictions are applied in a way that give us equal protection. The equal protection clause of the Constitution says that my vote gets the same protections in Ramsey County that voters in all other counties get. No less protection. No more protection. Equal protection.

If it is true, as Coleman alleges, that absentee ballots having X, Y and Z characteristics were counted in some counties, but excluded in others, that would seem to be counter to the Constitution and the principal of equality.

Those discrepancies must be corrected. Even if sorting it out means I don’t get my heaping helpin’ of Senate representation for another few months. Even if, heaven forbid, the appeal ultimately means I get the lesser of the two dweebs as my Senator.

Does my support for Coleman’s appeal mean I relish more time observing the recount’s ridiculous brand of kabuki theater? It most certainly does not. But the election must be decided based on constitutional applications of the law, not by the relative entertainment value of the proceedings, as defined by the impatient masses.

Does this mean I think that election officials in some counties stole the election from Coleman. Absolutely not. If there are differeing standards, I have no reason to believe that they aren’t honest mistakes. But honest mistakes can disenfranchise as surely as corruption.

Does this mean I see no problem with Minnesota being underrepresented in the U.S. Senate? Nope. I agree, that it’s a big problem. And if Coleman is appealing simply to truncate Franken’s term and increase the slope of Obama’s policymaking climb, he may be earning himself a non-term limited seat in Hades.

Does it mean that I think there is merit to Coleman’s equal protection argument? No. From my place in the cheap seats, I can’t know whether there is merit. I don’t have access to the evidence, and such a determination is above my pay grade. But if the possibility exists, I want the courts to sort it out, and give me maximum confidence in our election system. Because this is an issue that really matters.

Finally, does my support of Senator Coleman’s appeal mean that I think he is a righteous champion of the Constitution and fair electioneering. No way. Based on what I’ve seen from Coleman over the years, this is a guy who will do whatever it takes to cling to power. It is very likely that he is snuggling up to an equal protection defense simply because it is his last best hope for preserving his membership in the world’s most exclusive club.

But just because the appeal reeks, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.


28 thoughts on “Just Because Norm’s Appeal Reeks Doesn’t Mean It’s Wrong

  1. What’s the problem we’re trying to fix here, Norm?

    Are there patterns of disenfranchisement? No. Are there groups or classes of people whose votes are consistently — or even frequently, or even sometimes — tossed out? No. Does Minnesota have a history of voting fraud and abuse that can finally be brought to light and fixed with a tough legal case? No. Is there a huge problem here that, for the good of the state, we need to wrestle to the ground, even if it keeps a seat vacant in Washington during a time of national and international crisis? No.

    Are there inconsistencies in how votes are handled? Yes. Because this is a human business. And nothing will get rid of all those inconsistencies. It’s like umpires’ calls — some are blown, you argue, on occasion you win, mostly you lose the arguments, and you go back to your position or your dugout. Nothing will make all the umps’ calls right.

    The big principle here seems to be one butt in one seat — Norm’s in DC. Ain’t worth it.

    How many times do you have to lose this election, Norm, before you just go away and give us back our Senate seat?

  2. Joe makes a great argument … when I talk with my far-flung family, I add this point: Minnesota has made laws to set up this process. It’s pretty clear…recount-appeal-optional Supreme Court appeal. The process is being followed. They made the law so we wouldn’t have to argue about what to do when the election is this close. Yeah, it’s annoying, and we like to complain about it, but this is how it plays out.

    And I agree with Bruce… but think about it… if Norm loses after all, he gets snapped up by some lobbying firm or think tank and gets paid enough to retire all those mortgages…and if he wins…he’s, like, the Republican hero who, against all odds, slew the liberal voter fraud dragon!

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    Let’s say Ramsey County thinks the law says that my absentee ballot with a gray area legal issue is valid, but Hennepin County says Bruce’s ballot with the very same gray area legal issue is invalid and void. My vote counts. Bruce’s doesn’t.

    I don’t know whether Ramsey or Hennepin is right, but I know Bruce and I, for no good reason, are not being treated equally under the law. I’m not ok with that.

    Yes, it is a human business. But part of what the equal protection clause does is protect us from the inevitable human inconsistencies that play into the administration of the laws.

  4. Bruce Benidt says:

    Joe, stop being so damn reasonable. You’re right, dammit. What’s the legal phrase — bad cases make good law? This is a little like defending the right of the Nazis to march through Skokie. Good for you for having the guts to defend not Norm but the principle.

    And Ellen, you get the award for most succinct and powerful comment in the history of the Crowd.

  5. Joe Loveland says:

    Getting some hate email on this one! I’m not sure everyone understands my point: I’m saying the equal protection claim is important and needs to be resolved, not that it is (or isn’t) supported by evidence. Impossible to judge evidence from where I sit.

  6. iowan says:

    The “forfeit now” argument has PR value only if you are a Democrat.

    Liberals forget that 50% of Minnesota voters hate Franken and don’t mind that his influence in Congress is being delayed or obstructed.

    I think the GOP needs to exhaust every imaginable appeal to delay Franken from inflicting more economic and political damage on America.

  7. mindy says:

    I think that Norm won twice already and the way that the extra ballots were found is really fishy.

    Fight it all the way Norm.

  8. Joe Loveland says:

    Tammy Wynette would admire you standing by your man, Iowan, but look for polls in the next few days showing a majority of Minnesotans wanting him to pull out. Politically, another appeal six months after the election will hurt Norm. Sure, it helps with his base — the people he would never lose. But it hurts with the swing voters who decide elections.

    It’s an open question whether the appeal related political damage is long- or short-term, but I can’t agree that there is no damage.

  9. iowan says:

    Joe – I sort of agree with you. Keep in mind, though, that there is not a single Minnesota conservative (and nary a Republican) who likes Norm Coleman. Our greater objection is Franken. Thus Norm’s base is entirely represented by the anti-Franken vote.

  10. Joe Loveland says:

    It’s interesting to hear your perspective that conservatives don’t particularly like Norm. What’s the beef about him?

  11. iowan says:

    Norm is like Pawlenty and Pawlenty’s mentor, McCain … Convictionless and purposely wishy-washy on issues such as education, spending, immigration, eco-nonsense, “torture” and taxation.

    Norm is reaping the benefits of being a nothing candidate. As a conservative, he could have stomped Franken in November. But instead he fence-rode and wound up losing by 200 votes.

  12. Joe Loveland says:

    Always interesting to hear your analysis Iowan. From my spot on the commie fringe, I always assume that conservatives support Norm. Thanks for the view from your perspectie.

    As predicted, a survey released yesterday shows 63% Minnesotans want Norm to step aside and 59% want Pawlenty to certify Franken. That calls into question Iowan’s assertion that “50% of Minnesota voters hate Franken and don’t mind that his influence in Congress is being delayed or obstructed.” Whether the appeal is driven by righteousness or selfishness, it has a big political cost.


  13. Loveland says:

    Wall Street Journal from this past weekend:

    “…The three judges then finally defined what constituted a “legal” absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

    But the panel only applied these standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional absentees that the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed only about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now “illegal” according to the panel’s own ex-post definition.

    If all this sounds familiar, think Florida 2000. In that Presidential recount, officials couldn’t decide what counted as a legal vote, and so different counties used different standards. The Florida Supreme Court made things worse by changing the rules after the fact. In Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this violated Constitutional principles of equal protection and due process, which require that every vote be accorded equal weight.

    Democrats want to portray Mr. Coleman as a sore loser and make the Republican worry that he will ruin his chances for other political office. But Mr. Coleman has a legitimate grievance that not all votes have been treated equally. If the Franken standard of disparate absentee-voter treatment is allowed to stand, every close election will be settled by a legal scramble to change the vote-counting rules after Election Day. Minnesota should take the time to get this one right.”


  14. Loveland says:

    HuffPo blogger Adam Green recently made a interesting proposal. He suggests that the Dem. Senatorial Campaign Committee ask donors to commit to donating $1 for each day Norm fails to concede the race. The idea would be to force Republican activists to watch the Dems war chest grow larger every additional day Senator Coleman stays in the race.

    Not just a great finance idea. Also a great PR idea, since it would prompt the news media to regularly report on the running tally, which could start to eat at the resolve of Norm’s base to stand by their man indefinitely. Not a silver bullet, but a strategically smart sideshow.


  15. PM says:

    This isn’t the only close race–the race in NY state to suceed the new senator (Gilliland) is extremely close–but see this:

    yes, it looks like the republican (with the current lower vote total) is going to concede.

    So what is different in this case and Norm’s case?

    The obvious answer is the issue of the democrat’s getting 60 votes in the Senate. Any other reasons Norm isn’t going to do the Tedisco thing?

  16. Ellen says:

    He’s unemployable? No. That’s mean.

    I think it’s got to be very hard to give up the prestige that comes with being a United States Senator, once known as the Millionaire’s Club.

    Do you remember years ago when our then-Senator Dave Durenberger was busted in the following: He was running late to catch a flight at the Mpls. airport. When he got to his gate, there was quite a line ahead of him. So he pushed his way to the front — which caused the fine people in line to begin catcalling and hissing. Durenberger just turned to them and said, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m a United States Senator!”

  17. PM says:

    I do wonder how this will affect Norm’s employability–the longer this drags on, the less likely it seems that he will be employed by the people of the State of MN (ie., the end of his political career). Conversely, the longer it drags on, the more likely it is that he will be employed by the Republican Party (as a lobbyist, by Nasser Kazeminy, etc–where the big bucks really are, of course).

    I suppose, given the real financial sacrifices Norm has made (and I am NOT being facetious), it is time for him to go and earn some $$$. He is/was one of the few non-millionaires in the Senate Club.

  18. iowan says:

    He should be on GOP’s salary just for obstructing a significant portion of Franken’s term.the GOP should pay him bonuses for each month he can prolong Franken’s wait.

    Ellen: ‘We are the president.” – James B. Stewart, author of Blood Sport. page 368

    1. Of course they disagree, saying he shouldn’t step down. That’s the right thing in this case.

      At the very least, his continuous appeals and trials and recounts and such are helping the state refine its electoral processes.

      1. By the way, these threaded comments — in which I reply to a specific comment right under that particular comment — kick ass. Whoever turned this feature on finally, thank you.

  19. Say, what the hell is Blois Olson doing being “spokesperson” for the taxpayer-funded TIZA Islamic religious academy? And who pays for Olson to be its spokesman?

    I wish the Strib had some stones and would look into this.

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