Rabid Redux

Rabid Redux

To: Minnesota Senator Ann Rest
Minnesota Representative Laura Brod

Dear Representatives:


I am writing because you have introduced legislation to minimize the chances of having an election redux. You have suggested a runoff in December if the November results are within one half of 1 percent. You are on the right track, but proposing yet another election in a long string of irritating elections and at the additional taxpayer cost of at least $2 million is not the best solution to this problem.

It is certainly true that rabid partisans will continue to have elections—or relive elections—literally forever, on the grounds that if they can’t outvote the rabid partisans on the other side, they may be able to outlive them. Or perhaps, out-litigate them. Most Minnesotans would probably say that the problem with the ongoing U.S. Senate race lies in the selection of the candidates. But the real problem is the recount itself.

Whenever you have an election that comes down to 225 votes of almost 3 million cast, and when that election process can now extend over a six-week period, a microscopic review of a recount will disclose numerous irregularities and flaws. It’s inherent in the system.

Even in the old days of the 1962 Rolvaag-Anderson gubernatorial election, where almost all of the voting in the outstate area was by paper ballot and there were few voting machines even in the cities, irregularities crept into the system. Among them a “lost” ballot box containing mostly votes for Rolvaag, which was discovered months after the polls closed. After four court hearings and a recount (that wrapped up in March 1963), Karl Rolvaag won with 91 votes.

Now that the statute of limitations has run out, and the person I’m about to refer to is long since dead, let me relate to you a story told to me about the Rolvaag-Andersen election. This person, an attorney who was appointed to be an election judge by one of the candidate’s campaigns, participated in a recount in a rural community. The recount was presided over by three election judges—one appointed by each of the campaigns, and a third “neutral” person. The paper ballots were sorted into three piles: one pile for Anderson, one pile for Rolvaag, and a smaller pile of contested paper ballots.

Unbeknownst to one partisan election judge, the “neutral” in this particular case was distantly related to the other partisan election judge—the attorney who told me this story. He told me that when the other partisan had to use the outdoor facilities, he took a “handful” of ballots from the other partisan’s pile and hid them in a pocket in his overcoat, never to be counted.