As we speak, the MNGOP is announcing that it plans to seek “reconciliation” of the state’s vote totals before the recount begins.
The DFL is going to spread a lot of, frankly, BS about this process. Here are the facts. For starters…:
It’s The Law: The DFL is going to portray this to the uniformed (which the media will do their best to ensure the entire state is) as a wholesale disenfranchisement of voters.
The simple fact is, it is the law.
Under Minnesota law, the vote totals and the total number of actual, identified voters – the registered voters that signed in at the polling station – are supposed to be “reconciled”, or shown to be equal, by about six weeks after the election. The deadline this year is December 15.
Naturally, Mark Ritchie has bobbled that job as badly as he has every other facet of his job as Secretary of State and chief executive of our election system. In 2008, it took close to eight months for the reconciliation process to happen.
Which has potentially dire consequences, if you want a clean, accurate recount of an election.
We’ll come back to that.
How Reconciliation Works: If your precinct had 100 voters sign in, and there are 110 ballots, then ten ballots are picked out at random and discarded.
Really. That’s the state law.
Now, you might say “but that disenfranchises the ten voters that got picked out of the pile”. And there’s something to that. But by another token the ten extra votes disenfranchise ten voters in and of themselves; if it happened through fraud, then ten legitimate voters were negated; if through administrative incompetence (because precinct election staff don’t know how to do simple things like tally numbers or test ballot-counters before the election), then those ten ballots are equally disenfranchised, not by decree of Tony Sutton or Tom Emmer, but under state law.
Stupid? Maybe. We’ll come back to that later.
So why bother? Because there very well may be…
More Votes Than People: In 2008, the Minnesota Majority claimed that there were about 40,000 more votes cast than there were identified, signed-in voters in Minnesota. Mark Ritchie – Minnesota’s Secretary of State – said in effect “No, no no!” – it was only somewhere under 30,000 votes.
That’s right. Even Mark Ritchie, the chief executive of our electoral system, admitted that that out of a little over 2.75 million voters, there were nearly 30,000 more votes cast than there were identified, signed-in voters. That’s a little over a percent of the entire voting pool. Over one in a hundred.
That’s over double the margin between the candidates in this year’s governor race.
That’s an awful lot of votes that, at first glance – via incompetence or fraud, and it really doesn’t matter which at this point – seem to have no connection with real, signed-in humans that showed up at the polls.
By Minnesota law, this needs to be taken care of. And it needs to be done before any recount takes place, to make sure that we’re dealing with real numbers, not inflated/mistake-driven/fraudulent ones.
Let’s make sure we re-iterate two things here:
- Discrepancies may or may not be fraud, and it really doesn’t matter what the cause is, because…
- Reconciliation is a legal requirement, regardless.
Are there more votes than identified, actual voters? We don’t know yet. And before we recount the votes for the office of this state’s chief executive, we need to find out.
If there is a surplus of voters, is it fraud? We don’t know – and in a sense, it’s irrelevant to the question. Reconciliation is not a legal tactic; it is the law.
But the recount effort – led by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnusson – has noticed that there seems to be an…
Odd Pattern: There appear to be quite a number of precincts – concentrated in Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis Counties – where Tom Emmer grossly underperformed the rest of the GOP ticket, and Mark Dayton significantly overperformed the rest of the DFL’s floundering line-up.
There also are reportedly a very large number of ballots listing nobody but Mark Dayton. As in someone went in to the polls, registered, stood in line…and filled in only Mark Dayton. Nobody else.
So the law calls for reconciliation. Let’s reconcile!
“What a stupid system!”: Perhaps, but you don’t get to pick and choose the laws you want to follow (unless you have really good lawyers and your opposition doesn’t; see OJ Simpson. Or if you fight a legal battle with furious intensity and your opponent does not; see Al Franken vs. Norm Coleman).
Don’t like the law? Change it. Better yet, replace it – with a photo ID system by which poll staff can match real voters with real registrations. And get rid of vouching, and maybe same-day registration. Why shouldn’t voting, the most important of our civil rights, be reserved for those who pay enough attention to voting to actually register in advance?
But that’s a discussion for another day.