You can’t blame Minnesotans for feeling underrepresented these days.
The good citizens of my home state of Minnesota still only have one Senator serving their interests in Washington. Normally, there are 100 Senators in the U.S. Congress; two for each of the 50 states, but the election that took place in Minnesota between candidates Norm Coleman and Al Franken is still not decided. When the voting results on November 4, 2008 were too close to call, a legal battle began. Nearly six months later, Minnesotans – generally a mild-mannered, polite bunch – are starting to get a little annoyed.
On the bright side, the events that have taken place in Minnesota regarding the undecided election have served as an interesting case study for the democratic phenomenon of recounts. According to the official 2008 Recount Guide for the State of Minnesota, an automatic manual recount of votes cast for federal and state contests in a general election (as opposed to a primary election) will occur when:
1. The difference between the votes of the winning candidate and any other candidate is less than one-half of one percent of the total number of votes counted for that office.
2. Or, if the difference in vote count is ten votes or less for an office in which 400 votes or less votes were cast.
We’re dealing with thousands of votes cast, so reason #1 is what launched this recount. Each ballot had to be recounted one-by-one, with representatives of each of the two candidates able to dispute ballots they feel are not clear. Some ballots have been thrown out, others that were counted in favor of one candidate have been switched to the other. Everything follows the state rules on determining a voter’s intent.
This issue is getting enormous amounts of attention in the national media, with some commentators praising the fair and reasonable proceedings while others cry foul. The sense I get from my friends and family back home is that they just want the whole thing to be over. Personally, I’ve been impressed with the amount of transparency that has surrounded the recount. The state has a website that regularly posts information about the proceedings, and Minnesota Public Radio even displays disputed ballots on its website and asks citizens to make their own judgments about them.
It looks like Franken will eventually be named the winner, but there are still a few more legal steps to be taken. In the meantime, Minnesotans will have to stay patient, informed, and vigilant. This can’t go on forever, can it?