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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

I Guess It Bears Repeating for the WSJ: Minnesota is NOT Florida

Posted: 01/19/09 13:48

by Dave Mindeman

Don't you think Minnesota is lucky to have a watchdog like the Wall Street Journal keeping tabs on our elections? So lucky.

Well, they are at it again. Here is the latest installment....

The Minnesota Recount Was Unconstitutional

This actually comes from a Minnesota professor. Michael Stokes Paulsen penned this little gem...he is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minn. He is formerly associate dean of the University of Minnesota Law School. I am afraid I would question his credentials in election law.

Mr. Paulsen wants us to revisit Florida apparently...

This is Florida 2000 all over again, but with colder weather. Like that fiasco, Minnesota's muck of a process violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, the controlling Supreme Court decision is none other than Bush v. Gore.

Paulsen cites Bush v. Gore even though the Supreme Court was so uncomfortable with its own decision in 2000 that they stated:

The majority opinion announced that the ruling was ?limited to the present circumstances? and could not be cited as precedent.

But Mr. Paulsen still wants to go there and uses more Florida examples:

Remember Florida? Local officials conducting recounts could not decide what counted as a legal vote. Hanging chads? Dimpled chads? Should "undervotes" count (where a machine failed to read an incompletely-punched card)? What about "overvotes" (where voters punched more than one hole)? Different counties used different standards; different precincts within counties were inconsistent.

Florida was indeed a genuine mess. But the reason for the mess was murky Florida law..... Minnesota, on the other hand, has a law that is clear. Local officials don't deal with hanging chads or dimpled chads and there are clear methods for decisions to be made on overvotes and undervotes. Minnesota law requires a resolution and has a standard. Florida had no method to fix it. And Minnesota's counties all have the same standard to follow.

Minnesota is NOT anything close to Florida.

But Mr. Paulsen insists on going there...

Consider the inconsistencies: One county "found" 100 new votes for Mr. Franken, due to an asserted clerical error. Decision? Add them. Ramsey County (St. Paul) ended up with 177 more votes than were recorded election day. Decision? Count them. Hennepin County (Minneapolis, where I voted -- once, to my knowledge) came up with 133 fewer votes than were recorded by the machines. Decision? Go with the machines' tally. All told, the recount in 25 precincts ended up producing more votes than voters who signed in that day.

Found votes? Those votes were found because the examination phase (not the recount) required election officials to find clerical errors. They found some and added them into the totals as required to do under Minnesota law. This would have occurred even without a recount.

177 extra votes? They were found in a jammed machine during the recount. Those voters would have been disenfranchised if the recount had not taken place. Of course you count them.... there was no ruling to be made; it was required.

Hennepin County's 133 votes. An envelope was lost. The evidence was clear. The numbers matched if the 133 votes were accounted for. Minnesota even had a recount precedent that remedied the situation by using the original election night count. It happened before, how to fix it was clear.

25 precincts had more votes than voters. The numbers are small and may be answered by absentee ballots that had to be duplicated to be run through the machines. But again, there was a clear method for keeping track of this....marking the duplicates with the originals. Some counties made mistakes in following procedure. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to tell which votes were really counted twice. It is an error...not a sinister conspiracy.

Again, there are methods to remedy these things....this is NOT Florida.

Then there's Minnesota's (first, so far) state Supreme Court decision, Coleman v. Ritchie, decided by a vote of 3-2 on Dec. 18. (Two justices recused themselves because they were members of the state canvassing board.) While not as bad as Florida's interventions, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered local boards to count some previously excluded absentee ballots but not others. Astonishingly, the court left the decision as to which votes to count to the two competing campaigns and forbade local election officials to correct errors on their own.

Now, Mr. Paulsen has one valid point. The inclusion of the campaigns, in getting veto power over ballots to count, skewed the decision. But the absentee ballots already had clear standards for being counted. Minnesota law was clear, very clear, about when to exclude an absentee ballot. There were very clear reasons outlined in law. Some of the rejected ballots had been cast aside for other reasons.... reasons not mandated in law. Upon going over the rejected ballots, the local officials found the ones that were wrongly rejected. Let me repeat that. The ones that were wrongly rejected. The Supreme Court agreed that those should be counted, and aside from the quirky inclusions of campaign vetos, this was a very correct and legally sound decision.

This is NOT Florida.

So, as if he is stating the obvious, Paulsen goes on:

But as matters stand now, the Minnesota recount is a legal train wreck. The result, a narrow Franken lead, is plainly invalid. Just as in Bush v. Gore, the recount has involved "unequal evaluation of ballots in several respect" and failed to provide "minimal procedural safeguards" of equal treatment of all ballots.

Sorry, Mr. Paulsen, but Minnesota does NOT have unequal evaluation of ballots. In fact, Minnesota law bends over backwards to make sure every vote is counted legally and correctly and by the very same standard. In Minnesota we fix clerical errors, we examine votes for voter intent, we find the ballots that were wrongly rejected, and we do ALL OF THIS out in the open for everybody to see.

Sorry, Mr. Paulsen, Minnesota is NOT Florida.

No way.
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Good-bye to Number 43..Forever

Category: Presidential Politics
Posted: 01/18/09 15:44, Edited: 01/18/09 16:01

by Dave Mindeman

I am sitting here visualizing that moment when George W. Bush boards that helicopter and waves his last good-bye to what's left of his supporters and leaves the White House....for good.

What I see in that moment is not the frat boy confident swagger or the cheshire grin of someone who thinks he got away with something......

Nope... I see a country in shambles.

The ironic thing about it is that Bush 43 was never intellectual enough or curious enough to realize what he has done. And he probably never will.

As I think back to election night 2000, I remember watching the television, stunned at the up and down cycles of euphoria and despair being reported by a confused and increasingly incompetent media.

In the end despair won out.

Has it really been only 8 years of this? It seems like a generation. At the very least the damage will last a generation. The trail of death and destruction that has followed this man could almost be considered iconic. It is appropriate that this frat boy was a member of Skull and Bones.

And yet, he continues to be non-reflective. He believes he was a victim not an instigator. His view of history is not on the countless lives lost. It is not on the economic shambles the country has been left with. It is not on the deep divisions he sliced into the country. And it is not on the Constitutional threats that he enabled and implemented.

No, his focus is on the mistaken and misguided belief that he has promoted democracy in the world. He truly believes that he has planted the seeds of American ideals in the Middle East.

Forget the fact that they don't understand or want our way of life. Forget the fact that given the opportunity, they would vote for governments openly hostile to America. And forget the fact that we imposed our will on them against their own.

George W. Bush thinks that history will understand him. He believes that someday he will be vindicated. That everything will turn out right in the end. He believes that.

The majority of us don't believe it for a minute.

The Presidency of G.W. Bush has been a horrible error. It has been a mistake from the very beginning. From the Florida election fiasco to the lies about Iraq to the illegal shredding of the Constitution to the economic disaster. Mistake after mistake after mistake.

And G.W. Bush gets to walk away. He gets to board that helicopter and wave good-bye as though he expects admiration from us and not the contempt that most of us now feel.

Somehow, we will have to forget about 43 and get down to the business of repair and rebuilding. In two days, the massive undertaking begins.

I had hoped there would be an accounting of sorts. That Bush would be required to make reparations. That, at the very least, there would be a public trial by committee....an exposure in the fullest measure of all that he has done.

Maybe that is not to be. But I will not shed any tears for Bush as he boards that helicopter. I only feel contempt.

Good-bye and good riddance. May the number 43 be erased in its infamy.
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Pawlenty Proposals? Completely Wrong!

Category: Tim Pawlenty
Posted: 01/18/09 13:42

by Dave Mindeman

A blog called Minnesota Budget Bites has a great comparison of the Pawlenty, State of the State, proposals and the economic analysis of the coming economic stimulus by Mark Zandi (chief economist at Moody?s economy.com and an economic advisor for John McCain).

Here are the comparisons given:

Pawlenty. The Governor says job creation is one of his top priorities. He did not name any direct investments in job creation, but rather a set of business tax cuts including cutting the corporate income tax in half, tax credits and a capital gains exemption for investments in small business, a refundable tax credit for small business owners, faster depreciation, and more. These tax cuts would have to be for through greater spending cuts elsewhere.

Zandi. But the research shows tax cuts are the least successful means of stimulating the economy. Accelerated depreciation would deliver $0.27 in economic activity for each $1 in government revenues forgone, and a corporate tax cut would generate $0.30 in economic activity. In contrast, infrastructure spending, in which the government more directly invests in jobs and purchases of goods and services, shows a return of $1.59.

Pawlenty. The Governor noted the growth in the health and human services budget (remember - the increased cost of health care is occurring in both public and private systems, it is not anything unique to state programs). He?ll propose significant cuts in this area, only protecting ?current health care eligibility for children.?

Zandi. Those policies that help low- and moderate-income people sustain their incomes during tough times have the greatest bang for the buck, delivering more than $1 of economic activity for each $1 of government money spent on them.

Pawlenty. A wage freeze for state employees for two years, and requiring a wage freeze for any Minnesota government entity that accepts state money.

Zandi. Cuts in state and local government spending are a real concern, and can be a substantial drag on the economy. Zandi found that federal aid to the states to help them maintain their payrolls and continue to fund programs would result in $1.36 in economic activity for each $1 spent.

In summation: Pawlenty has it all WRONG!
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