Movement in Minnesota
The canvassing board finished counting all the Franken challenges and started examining Coleman's
challenges. As a result, Coleman's lead over Franken has
to only 5 votes. Unless you are really into this, you may not
understand why examining Franken's challenges helps Coleman and why examining Coleman's challenges
helps Franken. Here's how it works. Why would Coleman (for example) challenge a ballot? Because it looks
sort of like a Franken vote, but there is something wrong it, like a stray mark on it, that might get
it disqualified, as Minnesota law says that stray marks on a ballot make it invalid, and
writing in "Lizard people" certainly makes it invalid. However, another Minnesota law says that if the
intent of the voter can be determined, then the vote is valid. These laws are in conflict and by challenging
a ballot, Coleman is hoping the board will toss it out. As they go through the ballots Coleman challenged, some
are indeed thrown out, but others are accepted--nearly always for Franken (just as some of the ballots
Franken challenged went for Coleman). With only 5 votes separating the candidates (out of 2.9 million)
and 379 more Coleman challenges to be examined today, there is a fair chance Franken will end up leading by
Late yesterday afternoon Coleman suffered a major setback as the Minnesota state supreme court ruled that
improperly rejected absentee ballots
must be counted.
Coleman fought against this. Minnesota law gives four
explicit criteria for rejecting an absentee ballot (e.g., the voter didn't sign the envelope) but about 1600
ballots were rejected for reasons other than these four. For example, some people didn't write their drivers
license number on the envelope. But Minnesota law does not require you to have a drivers license to vote.
Nevertheless, some absentee ballots were rejected because the voter didn't write a drivers license
number on the envelope. Rejecting such a ballot is a clerical error and the court said you can't deny someone
the right to vote due to a clerical error.
Why did Coleman file this suit in the first place? Presumably because he fears Franken will gain more votes
from the 1600 ballots that were improperly rejected. While no one knows how these voters voted, it is known
that in Minnesota, absentee ballots tend to skew Democratic.
What are Coleman's options now? He can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court might not take the
case arguing that since it is state and not federal law at issue, the state courts are the place to resolve this.
Of course, in the Florida 2000 election, there was also an issue of state law and the U.S. Supreme Court did
take the case, so nobody knows what they would really do if Coleman pursues this route.
If Franken pulls ahead on the challenged ballots and then also gains a bit on the absentee ballots, the
canvassing board might certify him the winner. At that point he might fly to D.C. quick like a bunny and
then be sworn in immediately. If Coleman continues to fight in the courts, he will then have the additional
burden of trying to expel a sitting senator. The courts might be hesitant to do that since the constitution
says only the Senate can expel a sitting senator. On the other hand, if Coleman wins the recount and flies
to Washington asking to be sworn in, he may discover that Harry Reid is in no hurry at all and is happy to
wait until any court challenges are resolved.
Obama Picks a Labor Secretary
President-elect Obama finished naming his cabinet yesterday by
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) as secretary of labor.
Solis is the third Latino in the cabinet (after Bill Richardson and Ken Salazar). Latinos voted 2 to 1 for
Obama, and many of them may now feel their voices are being heard at the highest levels of government.
These picks are going to make it very difficult for the Republicans to win back the Latino vote in 2010.
Solis is also the fifth woman to get a major appointment. The AFL-CIO was ecstatic about the pick, saying that
Solis has an overwhelming pro-labor voting record in Congress.
Colorado Voters Split on Salazar Replacement
A PPP poll
asked Colorado voters who they would like Gov. Bill Ritter (D-CO) to appoint to the Senate to replace Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO)
who is the secretary-designate of the interior. The results: Denver mayor John Hickenlooper (23%), Rep. John Salazer (15%),
house speaker Andrew Romanoff (12%), former Denver mayor Frederico Pena (11%) and others below 10%.
Obama Defends the Choice of Warren to Give the Invocation at his Inaugural
Gay and lesbian groups fiercely denounced Obama for letting Warren play a role in his inauguration, but
yesterday his support for equality for gays and lesbians. He also said he wants diverse voices to be present at his inauguration and
that includes Warren. Finally, he noted that Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights icon who found the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference, will give the closing benediction. Warren and Lowery don't agree on much and
Obama pointed out that the magic of America is that it is a diverse country where multiple opinions are tolerated.
The choice of Warren was no accident. Obama knew exactly what he was doing: trying to get evangelicals who voted
against him to take a fresh look.
Unlike many evangelical preachers who talk only about the hot-button issues, Warren is well known for saying
that Christians have a duty to address world poverty and social injustice. By picking Warren, he is giving
Warren (and his expanded agenda) a huge amount of credibility in the evangelical community.
If Obama can get the evangelical leadership to stop focusing entirely on abortion and gay marriage and start
addressing AIDS and poverty as issues, he will ultimately benefit immensely from giving Warren valuable exposure.
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