If Norm Coleman was leading Al Franken by 14,000 votes, should we require a do-over election?
That’s a possibility under an elections proposal unveiled today by State Rep. Ann Rest (D-New Hope) and State Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague).
I understand the temptation of a runoff in a close election — really I do — though I think it’s a terrible idea. As I’ve written before (twice today, actually), the runoff would inevitably be a lower-turnout election, and shouldn’t supplant a higher-turnout one. The cure is simply worse than the disease.
But there’s a part of the Brod-Rest plan that seems particularly wrong-headed. They’d institute the runoff if the top two candidates finish within a half-percentage point of each other. That’s cribbed from current law which mandates a recount if the margin is that close. The idea is to get rid of the recount and go straight to the runoff.
However, there were 2.9 million votes cast for U.S. Senator this time around. A half percent of 2.9 million is 14,500. Overturning a margin that big would be a travesty. (I’m pretty sure if Al was leading Norm by 1,000 votes right now, this thing would be over. But if you’re ultra-cynical about Norm’s self-interest, let’s say 2,000.)
As we’ve seen in the current race, there are at most a couple thousand votes genuinely in dispute. If you’re going to refine this bad idea, cut that mandatory runoff percentage by a factor of five, to one-tenth of 1 percent.
There are other reasons to oppose this, but I’ll leave that for future discussion. Comments always welcome, though!