This morning, the state’s five-member Canvass Board considers whether to include improperly rejected ballots in the statewide count. Norm Coleman’s lead, 238 votes, now tops his pre-recount margin, the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger reports. Coleman gained 66 votes on Tuesday but challenged 77 more ballots. As usual, PiPress editorialist Jim Ragsdale does the best job of setting the scene and contextualizing the big picture.
The Strib’s Kevin Duchschere writes that two county attorneys are proposing a statewide method to examine rejected absentee ballots. Hennepin’s Mike Freeman and Anoka’s Bob Johnson propose that local officials do the review. The Coleman camp calls the move partisan (Freeman is a DFLer; no word on Johnson), but Freeman replies, “This is trying to count all the ballots. How the hell is that partisan?”
Regardless of what the Canvass Board does, the recount will go to court. That’s the upshot of Tom Scheck’s MPR report; he notes that an 18-year-old Minneapolis woman who goes to school in Washington state will sue to have her ballot counted. Her lawyer, Marshall Tanick, says the case “is a forerunner of other litigation that’s going to happen.”
There seem to be plenty of reasons for an absentee review, whether before the Canvass Board or the courts. Duchschere notes, “In Ramsey County, it appeared that 53 rejections were tied to administrative error,” but doesn’t explain more. Three ballots will be added in Itasca County. Two more may exist in Duluth, Forum Communications’ Don Davis reports. Overall, the Franken forces say 6,432 rejects exist in 66 counties. Stassen-Berger and Dave Orrick talk to rejected voters and set up today’s debate.
A stunt that works: On a day when he challenged 435 ballots to Franken’s 358, Coleman calls for a truce. Late in the evening. And gets a not-cynical-enough PiPress headline for it. Reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger waggishly notes for “the first time the Coleman campaign admitted to playing a game of ‘ballot challenging.’ “MPR’s Mark Zdechlik says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is lobbying for a simpler solution: have the campaigns cull whatever challenges they’ve made.
To quote a Strib commenter, “What the hell is going on in Becker County?” The Detroit Lakes Tribune notes officials there discovered a 46-vote discrepancy between Election Day and the recount; Forum’s Don Davis says the ballots were found later in the day. On Monday, Becker officials discovered 61 valid but uncounted ballots. Minnesota Independent’s Chris Steller says dozens of U students in Minneapolis may have been improperly turned back at the polls.
Everyone chases Fox9’s scoop from two days ago: Did Minneapolis Somalis return home to fight for terrorist groups? KSTP’s Bob McNaney reports one man reportedly blew himself up as part of a terrorist attack, but there’s no credible evidence of a plot to target the United States. The Strib says a “high-level investigation” involves six to seven returnees, not the 12 to 20 reported elsewhere. Some Somalis say there’s no evidence of local recruiting.
As the holiday season approaches, the Strib’s David Phelps says investigators are having a hard time finding Tom Petters’ assets. (Nice headline: “And where did Tom Petters’ Bentleys go?”) The hunt for cars and Ansel Adams photos would make a fine yarn. “We’ve drained swimming pools and lifted boats out of the water to preserve assets for sale,” says court-appointed receiver Doug Kelley.
More Petters: The most intriguing find so far: $14 million to $16 million in consulting fees for helping Central and South American lotteries. This story is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
On the flip, City Pages’ Matt Snyders — last seen living at the Mall of America for a week — tries his hand at homelessness. Synders acknowledges the stunt factor — in seven days, he’ll return to whatever cushy circumstances a CP salary provides — but it’s a very engaging and honest read. There’s a page-turning factor to watching Snyders’ $40 cash stash dwindle.
Charter schools take a beating in the Strib and at MPR. Both stories rely on a new report that says charter students perform worse on state tests and are more segregated. The Strib notes, “Only 24 percent of elementary charter schools in the Twin Cities performed better than expected, given their poverty rate.” That contrasts to 54 percent of traditional students in poverty and 79 percent in a program where kids can transfer to better-performing public schools. Replicating even the good charters is tough, researchers claim.
More charters: Advocates of the alternative schools say kids start behind — there are many new immigrants — but make faster progress, and parents love the culturally specific programs even if they tip over racial balance.
This summer, the tiny MACCRAY district got national publicity for switching to a four-day school week as a cost-cutting move. Now, a much bigger district — Rochester — is considering the same schedule, according to the Post-Bulletin’s Elliot Mann. I think this means this will be coming soon to a metro district near you. By the way, Mann noted Tuesday that Rochester, which faces a $10 million deficit, is considering turning down building thermostats currently set at “around 70.”
There’s another election year at hand! The Strib’s Steve Brandt surveys the Minneapolis politicial landscape, which R.T. Rybak seems to dominate. Four council members wait in the wings if Rybak takes an Obama administration job or runs for governor, but one (Ralph Remington) is making noise about a challenge if the mayor stays put. Side note: Should Rybak leave for D.C. before March 1, Instant Runoff Voting gets an early try.
Pre-Turkey Day: The PiPress’ Dennis Lien offers a captivating piece on how 29 wild turkeys trucked in from Missouri in 1973 became the 70,000 we have today. The Strib’s Mary Jane Smetanka riffs on the same theme with a look at the engorged flock as neighbors.
The gobblers’ business side: The West Central Tribune’s Carolyn Lange details a tough year for turkey producers. Feed costs soared early, and overproduction led to a price crash. Says one grower, “You should probably buy one and then buy another one and stick it in the freezer because it’s a pretty good value for the cost.”
Nort spews: No contests scheduled Tuesday, but the PiPress’ John Brewer notes the wildly cheering crowd at last Saturday’s Gopher game … for a 38-year-old woman and 26-year-old man getting it on in a Metrodome handicapped stall. The U’s top cop says it was the first time in his six-year tenure that his troops busted a case of in flagrante delicto at the Dome.