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Saturn Smith
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JUNE 30, 2009 3:18PM

File Under Finally: Franken Wins

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Al Franken -- 2008

Image through GNU license/Jonathunder

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled today [.pdf] that Al Franken won the state's 2008 Senate race.  Update: This is now official, as Coleman has conceded the race. 

 


About frickin' time.

I'm not one to rush the election system.  After 2000, I became a disciple of the "take all the time you need to get to the true result" camp.  This delay, however, has been excessive.  It's June 30 -- almost eight months since the votes were cast in Minnesota.  In those eight months, the residents of Minnesota have been served by one Senator, Amy Klobuchar, when they've needed two.  Beyond that, we've been one senator down in the Democratic party since January, too -- and there have been a few times when Mr. Franken's vote, and voice, would have been extremely valuable.  I'm sure the GOP has felt the same way about Sen. Coleman.

How long should it take to settle an election?  Why is voting such an inexact science?  It seems simple enough, doesn't it?  But fairness often requires complexity.  It requires provisions.  It requires absentee ballots, hand-counting, re-counts, hand-wringing, and, apparently, lawyers and 61.3 million dollars.  The question before us, again, is whether there's a time at which you must call a full stop and go with the winner you have.  How long can a state go without a senator before they're being more poorly served than they would be by having the wrong man in office?  In the Franken case, I think we've butted right up against the limit.

In a way, this is a reminder of how broken our election system really is.  My iPod can pinpoint my location on a map within a few yards; my Blackberry brings me real-time updates of worldwide news; my computer could probably cook me breakfast if I asked it nicely.  I'm pretty sure any of these devices could have been configured to count votes in Minnesota with as much accuracy as this 238 day process has provided us.  In fact, I think perhaps my vacuum cleaner could've done it.  For a country that runs on high-tech devices, our low-tech solutions for voter registration, vote counting and re-counting, and even for establishing what a vote means, seem to leave quite a bit up for debate.

In another way, though, maybe there's a bright side to this.  We're a country willing to wait for real results instead of rushing to those that seem most convenient.  We're willing to spend $11 million on a recount.  And we're (finally) being rewarded with the Senator that the people of Minnesota have chosen.

Welcome, Mr. Franken.

 


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In fact, I think perhaps my vacuum cleaner could've done it.

LOL... So, do you have a Dyson or a Roomba?

In any case, I do think that even a "low-tech" method, such as counting by hand, could have been completed in fewer than 238 days!!!
Yes, it is about time. And bingo -- our election system is about as up-to-date as our medical record system. Both need a major overhaul. Thanks for the great news!
Ohh, I so want a Roomba, but right now I have the world's worst Dirt Devil. The wheels are broken. Yes. Imagine.

I agree, too. It could've taken much less time -- but hand counting also opens things up to "human error," which extends the time. Sometimes that's for the good -- computers can't make judgment calls like humans can, and sometimes it's good that voters get the brief benefit of the doubt. But the more room for error, the more room for courtroom drama and foot-dragging, I think.
Isn't that strange, Steve? You'd think we could be on top of these things. Facebook is more high tech than medical records. Bizarro world.
The Al Franken Decade, at long last.

I'll believe it when he's sworn in.
I think Franken should have been seated as soon as the results were certified by the Elections Board. All the court battle could then take place in the background. There is no need to leave the seat vacant while the court battles are going on.
He is a despicable human being who has no respect for the law or this country. Shameful. In person he is nothing more than someone who likes to hear himself talk and if you pay attention you will see that he ignores you.
Hello, in a way I agree -- it's not over until he's sworn in. Which is, in a way, why I think he wasn't sworn in sooner, IceMilk -- it makes it that much harder to recall someone once they've been seated.
T.S., I admit I've never met him, but I've enjoyed hearing him talk politics and like his stances and what I've read of his books. I'm sorry you find him so personally abhorrent.
Phew. Well, the good people of Minnesota waited all this time and as far as I could tell, there were no riots in the streets of Minneapolis. That says something rather hopeful about this country.

PS - T.S., have you actually met Franken in person? I have, and found him to be gracious, warm, attentive, hysterically funny, and far more knowledgeable about government and the Constitution than many other elected officials I've encountered.
Well, he's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggoneit, people like him!

Just saw him the other day in a bit part as a dumb baggage handler in "Trading Places." I'm sure he'll be a better senator....
When I met with him it was on what was to be a pleasure trip. The man had a book out at the time and all he could talk about was Rush Limbaugh. I'm sorry, he is just a sad commentary on our societal and governmental ills.
the only way the electoral system will ever work smoothly, at least in close contests, is if the process is standardized and verifiable. When each of a state's counties selects its own process for tallying votes, you have a recipe for delays at best, and fraud at worse (see Florida 2000, or Texas 1948 (LBJ Senate race)). It would be incredibly easy to improve on what we have. Just reintroduce Rush Holt's legislation from several years ago and get the Democratic Congress to approve it!
TS, maybe he just ignores you.
T.S. typed: "He is a despicable human being who has no respect for the law or this country. Shameful. In person he is nothing more than someone who likes to hear himself talk and if you pay attention you will see that he ignores you.

"When I met with him it was on what was to be a pleasure trip. The man had a book out at the time and all he could talk about was Rush Limbaugh. I'm sorry, he is just a sad commentary on our societal and governmental ills."

What I like about you T.S. is that you never let reality stand in your way. Did he have a requirement to talk with you? On your subject of choice?

Grow up. (And I mean that in the nicest way possible.)
If I were a Minnesota voter I might be exasperated with the process by this point. However, seeing the recent turmoil in Iran, I suppose a laboriously vetted process is by far the lesser of evils.
Still, with >$61,000,000 in legal fees, I guess "free & fair" elections has become an either/or proposition.
Saturn: Franken is not in the Senate yet. Coleman could (and likely will) appeal to the Supreme Court.

"We're a country willing to wait for real results instead of rushing to those that seem most convenient."

We're a country held hostage by corrupt politicians. Norm
Coleman and the Republicans are more interested in winning at any cost than in democracy.
You know, I think that Franken is going to be a very thoughtful, intelligent Senator. He will surprise some on the right.
I'd be furous if I was from Minnessota, I know this was all about determining the "will of the people" however, what about the rights of voters to actually have representation actually sitting in congress looking after their interests? I love too how it gets to be all about determining who "won" but seriously, when it's this close, and there's this much of a margin of error, just flip a coin. Apparently if the voter's are so split that it's that so incredible tight a race - there's not a mandate or overwhelming call one way or the other.
Uh, what's $61 million in legal fees if it's billed @ the current minimum wage?
Bill, I think the odds of an appeal are much slimmer now that the decision is unanimous. But true, he could still appeal; it just seems very unlikely.

Cleo, I do think you may a good point about how long people should go without representation. Coin-flipping does sound good, and in fact is still used, I believe, in many lower seats (county seats, city offices, etc.) around the nation. But for higher offices I guess we allow longer disputes, because the power is greater.
I have nothing to add to the general discussion - I'm usually one of those who reads your posts, rates, and leaves without speaking - but this time I wanted to add that you handle debate and dissent quite graciously, and I always enjoy your thoughts.
Norm Coleman now has a firm command of the obvious. Credit?
Hey, thanks annette. I appreciate the comment, and your reading.

Stacey -- I'm stumped. Where's that from?
...and Bill, I take it back; now that Coleman's conceded, this thing is done. HURRAH!
O so finally!
Tickled to see your Saturn car ad!
Saturn - I first heard "firm command" regarding Arthur Godfrey, but I haven't a clue anymore if it was Firesign Theatre, Robin Williams or Ken Nordine who deserves the credit. Perhaps a savvy reader will add two cents.
"In a way, this is a reminder of how broken our election system really is. My iPod can pinpoint my location on a map within a few yards; my Blackberry brings me real-time updates of worldwide news; my computer could probably cook me breakfast if I asked it nicely. "

For God sakes Joan...hire this woman!
O's, I am fast becoming the Web's leading dealer of soon-to-be defunct car brands. Hee hee.

Stacey -- it's a great quote, wherever it comes from. I can't find an original source either, so now I'm giving it to you.

Beach was great, great, great, and just what I needed, L&P!

Ha, thanks, Glenn. You're very kind.
i agree. this went on ridiculously long.
Franken rocks!

I hear he only takes tips.
What I'd like to know is why in 2000, the right wing nuts were out there on day one saying that Al Gore was a sore loser and they came up with "Sore Loserman" posters.

On the other hand, when the race was decided in Franken's favor and Coleman, as he is entitled to, filed appeal after appeal, none of those right wing nuts said a damn thing.

Hypocritical sons of bitches.
Phew. Well, the good people of Minnesota waited all this time and as far as I could tell, there were no riots in the streets of Minneapolis. That says something rather hopeful about this country.

Naw. That's just how we riot up here. Can't risk showing any emotion, yanno. Someone tried that at the Wellstone memorial and that's what started this whole fiasco. Coleman wouldn't have won without that.

I voted for Franken. I have never thought much of him as an actor or a comedian but, listening to his radio show and reading some of his books I was mightily impressed with the quality of his thought and reasoning which was always backed with thorough research. I only ran across him once on the campaign trail and he was distant. If he had run up and thrown his arms around me, given me a big kiss and treated me to dinner it wouldn't have influenced my vote. I don't vote for these people to be my buddies.

Now we have to deal with Norm running for governor. Wait and see.
His opponent Norm Coleman who is a Republican and knew he lost did not want Al in the Senate. Norm drew this out and did a disservice to his constituents. But what does Norm care? All he wanted to do was torment Al. Especially when states are severley affected by our economy Norm choose to leave no stone unturned in his quest for foolishness.
Al is just another liberal who won't pay his taxes.
I didn't mean to post that yet.

It may have taken a long time but look at what we have vs what is happening in Iran. We don't have 1000's of people in the street. We don't have women gunned down in cold blood.

Yes, it took the courts, not the the two of them, a long time to get things worked out. They played by the rules. When the courts finally made their final decision, Coleman said you won and is going on. While I may not like the outcome, it is what it is and we got there peacefully and it's now over.

Our system may not be the fastest, but it works more often than not.
Exactly which issues were left unfinished because MN was one senator down? Is there some measure that failed to move forward because it was one vote short? Was there some issue vital to MN that has been left out of discussion because Al Franken or Norm Coleman were not there to ensure it was raised?
"I'm pretty sure any of these devices could have been configured to count votes in Minnesota with as much accuracy as this 238 day process has provided us"
Herein is the problem with our system. There is no system standards.
The issue is that there are no national standards for elections, counts, recounts etc. I am willing to believe that, in fact, your vacuum cleaner could have done a credible job counting votes. What I am not willing to accept is living in a place that allows the CEO of DIEBOLD to guarantee a Bush "win" with his money ($1mm) and his machines. And then we are told we cant verify crap because the software is proprietary.
What we need is open source software that can be tested by every little 14 yr old weirdo in his bedroom with a computer. Hack away. Fix the holes. Make it secure.
So I for one have no problem with hand counting 3 million Minnesotans votes over the course of 8 months to get it right, given the sorry state of equipment most jurisdictions work with. But at some point we need to change the whole damn system.
Forgive my clunky edit! There ARE no system standards!
What I originally meant to say was that there is no single system. Apologies to all my English professors..... Mea Culpa.
The Republicans would have been screaming from the rooftops and from Fox every day if it had been the other way around.

Apparently being a sore loser is a traditional family value.