Incorrect ballot marks should not count

Alex Entz/Business Manager

In case you haven’t been following politics very closely lately—which has indeed proved difficult after a marathon of a 2008 election—you are entitled to an update on the Minnesota race for its last senator spot. The race pitted the incumbent Norm Coleman against Al Franken, the novelist and comedian from Saturday Night Live.

The race takes on a special significance because of the big to-do surrounding Democrats sercuring a 60th seat, which would happen if they were to take this Minnesota race. Having a 60-40 seat majority in the Senate means that the 60-seat party will be able to avoid a filibuster, a political move where one party talks for long periods of time (hours at a time) or otherwise blocks political action or voting on a bill. If one party gains 60 seats, they are effectively able to circumvent bipartisanship and the political “integrity” that our highest office-holders supposedly build themselves around. Being able to run amuck as no party should ever be allowed to (including both Republicans and Democrats) has only harmful effects for a country; a two-party system is built around both parties being viable and both being able to work together to form a country. Giving one party the ability to block out the other is dangerous and debilitating.

The Minnesota race was particularly bloody, even compared to the Obama-McCain and Bush-Kerry slugfests of the past. Both sides ripped into each other with increasing ferocity as Nov. 4 came up, and it became clear that each vote would count in a way that it hadn’t since the 2000 general presidential election.

The election was very close, indeed. At the end of the night on Nov. 4, the election was still far too close to call, and after the original count, Coleman stood ahead of Franken by 477 votes—of over 2,400,000 votes cast. The Franken camp pushed, in a dramatic affair, for a hand recount.

The recount was carried out. Coleman won by 192 votes.

Ever the dramatist, the SNL sketch writer Franken drug the race out father by asking the liberal Minnesota government to review all challenged and rejected ballots. They caved.

This is where my problem and my opinion comes in. Voting is a very simple thing. All a voter has to do—much to the disdain of those calling for voters to show some semblance of intelligence by passing a basic political test (witness their concerns:—is fill in the circles completely to vote for a person. Nonetheless, hundreds of voters failed this simple task. Instead of filling in circles clearly, they crossed out names, filled in multiple circles and wrote notes along the margins of the ballot. These votes were counted by a three-member board that looked for “voter intent” and gave the votes to one side or the other. After these pseudo-votes had been counted, Franken took the advantage by 251 votes. Then came the rejected absentee ballots, bringing the level to 225 votes, again in favor of Franken.

The race has since taken to the courts and will likely be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, though Franken seems to be the likely winner, six months after the election. Nevertheless, the idea that voters who could not figure out how to fill in a bubble on a ballot should swing an election is ridiculous. Come on, Minnesota-give the election to Coleman.

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