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Let’s speed up the recount

Jan. 5, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

Something as simple as counting the number of votes received by each candidate in a senate race seems like it should be black and white, but in Minnesota, it is cloudy shades of gray.

The voting was complete Nov. 4, but the squabbling over the outcome seems destined to continue well into the new year.

It began with hundreds of contested ballots, with challenges coming from the campaigns of both major candidates.

Then, there were disputes over absentee ballots, including some 1,600 absentee ballots that have been termed “wrongly rejected.”

Other complications include a charge from Senator Norm Coleman’s camp that dozens of votes were counted twice in some precincts.

The process has taken weeks. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has said his objective is to ensure that the process is accurate and transparent.

This is a goal that we should all support.

Unfortunately, it appears that even after weeks of political posturing, sorting, and counting, and hours spent scrutinizing the ballots, the recount will not produce a clear winner.

No matter what the outcome is, a court challenge seems imminent.

Instead of being decided by voters, the election of our next senator could be determined by lawyers and judges.

There has already been a certain amount of “interpretation” of results as each side tried to gain an advantage.

The unofficial totals for each candidate have gone up and down, and the current margin stands at 47 votes in favor of challenger Al Franken over Coleman.

I have not yet heard a report concerning what this recount will cost taxpayers, but it seems reasonable to assume that it won’t be cheap.

Perhaps we could adopt a different plan that would both save tax dollars and get the election resolved before the next term of office has expired.

Maybe both sides could agree to settle the race by arm wrestling. That would be quick and easy.

Some might say that this would give an unfair advantage to the candidate who has spent the most time in the gym, so we could take a different approach.

We could settle the matter by a round of rock-paper-scissors, or maybe by drawing for the high card.

Some might suggest that these would be frivolous ways to determine the winner of a very serious election, but I am not convinced they are any more frivolous than what we are doing now.

The current program consists of adding to the wealth of highly-paid lawyers, and it involves as much gamesmanship as any of the alternatives I have suggested.

Rather than resolving the black and white question of how many votes each candidate received, the process seems to be a matter of each campaign attempting to convince the courts to accept the interpretation of various shades of gray that is most favorable to whichever campaign is making the argument.

Both camps have indicated that they are the rightful winners, and accused their opponents of trying to muddy the waters.

Settling the matter by rock-paper-scissors or drawing for the high card is at least as dignified as these legal games, and it would be a lot less expensive for taxpayers.

Alternatively, we could bring back that grand old tradition of duelling that was so popular early in our country’s history. We could issue a duelling pistol to each candidate, and a referee could start them out. They could each take 10 paces, turn and fire.

The advantage of this approach is that it eliminates the bother and expense of appeals.

Accuracy and transparency are worthy goals for any election, but the process of counting the votes and determining a winner shouldn’t take longer or cost more than the campaign did.

This is a critical time for Minnesota and the nation. The sooner we get one of these monkeys seated, and get on with the real business at hand, the better it will be for the voters. We need representation, not legal games.