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Minnesota Recount Getting Absurd   December 4th, 2008
A "missing" envelope of ballots stalls recount       


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I've refrained from commenting on the recount in Minnesota, but the senatorial race in Minnesota between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken is just getting absurd now. The statewide recount is basically done but has now stalled because of a "missing envelope" that supposedly contains 130 ballots.


A missing envelope containing about 130 ballots has stalled the recount in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.

The state canvassing board appeared likely to postpone its unofficial Friday deadline to finish the recount because of the missing ballots from the city of Minneapolis.

Because of the "extraordinary circumstances," said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann, the city has until December 16 to locate the votes. The canvassing board is set to meet that day and take further action in the recount process.

"We won't meet our goal to have all ballots hand-counted by the end of the day [Friday] unless the envelope returns in the next 24 hours," Gelbmann said.

Minneapolis Elections Director Cindy Reichert said she's "not sure where [the missing envelope] would have gone" but that her staff is "in the process of looking under everything."

This is surreal. They're "in the process of looking under everything?" Come on! If a state can't execute a recount without losing ballots, why would anyone believe that the recount is any more accurate than the original count? If ballots have been so negligently handled and with so little security that they can be entirely "lost," why should anyone have any faith that the envelope that is eventually found is the same envelope that was originally lost? Why should anyone have any faith in such a sloppy recount process?

I wrote about the questionable value of recounts a couple of years ago and it's worth revisiting. Simply put: If there's no evidence of fraud, recounts are pointless. There's simply no reason to believe that a second count is going to be more accurate than the first count. In fact, there's every reason to believe that the second count will be less accurate: Would-be fraudsters know how many votes they need to "make up" since they know the total vote counts from the original election; ballots get damaged or can be manipulated or spoiled, either unintentionally or intentionally; or, in the case of Minnesota, entire envelopes of ballots can simply go missing and apparently delay the recount for weeks.

Recounts have been entirely abused ever since the presidential election of 2000. They aren't used because anyone really has any reasonable doubt about the validity of the original tally but because they hope that a second count will produce a different number. When counting millions of ballots it's pretty much a statistical certainty that every count is going to produce a different number.

So the recount becomes the mechanism the loser uses as a last ditch effort to try to change the results. Not because they are the legitimate winner but because they lack the dignity to concede the election.

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