(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.
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.