Wednesday, December 8, 2010

And then there was one.

As of yesterday, the United States had two statewide elections that had not been resolved: the gubernatorial election in Minnesota and a United States Senate election in Alaska. These elections were similar in some ways. Both involve margins small enough to mandate a recount. Both also involve significant percentages of people voting for a candidate who wasn't on the ballot as a Republican or a Democrat (although, Alaska's third candidate is, in fact, a Republican). Both elections also involve fewer ballot challenges than the margin of victory. Where these elections differ is in how the loser is handling the fact that it appears impossible for them to win.

In Minnesota, Republican Tom Emmer conceded defeat today. One reason that this concession occurred today is that, yesterday, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued its written opinion explaining why Mr. Emmer's theory of how one counts voters is, to put it mildly, wrong. Voting precincts do not need to count the signatures on the voting registry to determine if the number of votes equals the number of voters. Precincts can simply compare voting receipts to ballots cast.

The other reason Mr. Emmer conceded is that he couldn't come up with 8,700 challenged ballots for the canvassing board to review. After the canvassing board (which includes two sitting Minnesota Supreme Court justices) chastised Mr. Emmer's legal team (which includes a former Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice) about making frivolous challenges, Mr. Emmer withdrew almost all his challenges. Faced with a mathematical impossibility, Mr. Emmer conceded.

That is not how they do things in Alaska. Up north, Republican Joe Miller is continuing his fight in the election he lost to Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Republican Senator he beat in the primary. After losing the primary, Senator Murkowski decided to run a write-in campaign and became the second person in 60 years to win a write-in campaign for the Senate.

Mr. Miller's strategy for the recount, one that seems perfectly reasonable given Senator Murkowski's last name, was that only ballots that correctly spelled her name should count. However, as the Los Angeles times notes, this strategy is failing because there were fewer misspellings than Senator Murkowski's margin of victory. Some people would find this an insurmountable problem. Those people are not Joe Miller. As the article notes, part of Mr. Miller's argument is that Ms. Murkowski had an advantage because votes for were counted by hand while votes for Mr. Miller were counted by machine. This is the first time I have ever heard that write-in candidates actually have an advantage in elections. It will be interesting to see if that sort of counter intuitive argument can carry the day.

1 comment:

  1. My question is: whose side are the machines on? As we go forward, and machines become increasingly sentient, this will become a more and more pressing issue. So perhaps Miller v. The Machines will become a landmark case.

    Or perhaps not.


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