A “Capitol Notebook” piece in the Sunday Strib pointed out “some curious contradictions” between partisan positions on voting law in the Legislature versus the Senate recount trial.
But, perhaps hobbled by the goofy code that I call “the norms of journalism,” the piece stopped short of giving the fairly obvious explanation that explains the contradictions.
The “curious contradictions” are these. Dems in the Legislature are trying to change Minnesota election laws to make it easier to vote. In one specific example, with the state’s attention called to the difficulty that thousands of absentee voters had getting their votes counted, the Dems of the Ledge want to legalize “early voting,” making it possible for any citizen to visit a government facility before Election Day and vote, without having to do all the mailing, double-signing, and witness-getting required of absentee voters, and without having to swear (or pretend, in many cases) that they really couldn’t get to the polls on Election Day.
Republicans are resisting the change arguing, as the Strib notebook piece put it: “that allowing early voting and streamlining rules concerning absentee ballots could undermine the integrity of elections.”
But in the courtrooms of St. Paul, it’s Al Franken — the Dem — arguing that the Minnesota election system ain’t all that badly broken and it’s Norm Coleman — the Repub — who thinks the level of error that occurred in the treatment of absentee ballots rises to the level of unconstitutionality.
Concludes the Strib piece, implying that there is some mystery to all this partisan switching:
“So DFLers want to change an election system that (so far) has favored their candidate, while Republicans want to stick with that system.
No, no questions. One of the annoying things about those norms of journalism is that a reporter who knows something often can’t find a way to smuggle it into a story where it has to fit the curious newspaperized definition of a “fact.” It’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying the online environment in my old age. So, let’s solve this mystery:
As a matter of partisan political assumptions, Dems believe that they benefit from higher election turnouts (and therefore favor most ideas for making it easier for people to vote).
Repubs have a larger core of perennial voters who turn out at all elections. Republican lawmakers therefore believe (with plenty of historical evidence) that their party will do better in low turnout elections. Therefore, they typically are more reluctant to reduce barriers to voting. That explains what’s going on in the Legislature.
In the context of the recount of a close, disputed election, it doesn’t matter which party you are in: The candidate who is trailing in the most recent count always favors whatever argument will result in the counting of more votes. (Franken, in the early stages of this post-election epic, was the one who first raised the argument that some of the absentee ballots were wrongly rejected.) The candidate who is ahead in the most recent count always believes that that count is legally, morally, constitutionally and above all politically acceptable. (That was Norm Coleman’s position on Election Day and remained his position until the day he fell behind in the recount.)