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Common sense is uncommon

Feb. 23, 2009

by Herald Journal & Enteprise Dispatch Editor Lynda Jensen

Mark Twain once said “Common sense is uncommon,” and I can’t help but think this applies to the recount in progress.

As the process drags on in the senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, I can’t help but wonder if the end will justify the means or if simple math will prevail, no matter who eventually wins.

Last week, I interviewed a New Germany couple who voted for Norm Coleman and have yet to have their votes count because their daughter – who was the witness on both of their absentee ballots – moved from one county to another in Minnesota.

Did she fly in from Amsterdam and expect to be properly registered? No. She simply moved around a bit from Minnesota to Minnesota; enough to jostle her voter registration.

At the heart of it, this is an administrative problem that should be permanently cured. Isn’t this the 21st Century?

Another couple I spoke with had their votes not counted because their witness used a post office box.

I remember voting by absentee ballot when my due date was the week of the election in 2004 – and like the gal I interviewed last week, I also don’t remember being told that a post office box is unacceptable.

Since I voted right in the county office, it’s likely that my vote counted; but after this lengthy fiasco, I doubt most absentee ballots are counted properly.

Our military in the service (who vote absentee) are likely not having their votes counted properly either; probably on technicalities and rules applied differently in each county.

For example, in Carver County, the witness of each absentee ballot was carefully checked. In Hennepin, they were not checked at all. Who knows what McLeod County (two miles away) did?

If Kelton and Marcella Adams of New Germany had lived about 10 miles down the road, they would have had their votes count.

But unfortunately, whether we are counting ballots that should be counted and not counting ballots that genuinely don’t make sense isn’t the issue any longer – it’s the fact that the Minnesota US Senate seat in dispute is the dividing vote that can sway national issues. The issue now certainly isn’t whether people will be robbed of their rightful votes.

Looking at the overall picture, my question is this: Can a system that acknowledges up-front that ballots were “wrongfully rejected” in the first place – continuing to refer to them week after week as “wrongfully rejected,” and still not counting them – work?

Isn’t this like a banker who says he “incorrectly counted” your checking account balance, but continues to purposefully keep the wrong numbers, referring to them as “incorrectly counted” each week? “Gee, it’s too bad that you bounced those checks due to that ‘incorrectly counted’ balance in your checking account.”

My answer would be “Count it right, and don’t let it happen again.”

Yes, it’s probably a complicated issue, but in this modern age, can’t we do better for this, one of the most important freedoms?

Quote of the week

“Even if all the things that people prayed for happened – which they do not – this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. Invariable “success” in prayer would not prove the Christian doctrine at all. It would prove something more like magic – a power in certain human beings to control, or compel, the course of nature.

– C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), “The Efficacy of Prayer”