With about a sixth of the votes recounted, Norm Coleman’s margin fell 43 votes to 172. (Or 174 if you’re the Strib, which is running its own total and includes more ballots.) Not included in that number: 221 challenged ballots (269 according to the Strib); Coleman’s folks challenged 115 to Al Franken’s 106. The state Canvassing Board will decide those in December.
Older, less-sensitive optical scanners boosted Franken’s total in DFL St. Louis County, the Strib’s Larry Oakes reports. Republicans might freak that Franken won all 11 “found” votes where too-faint lines connected arrows. However, the Coleman troops don’t cry foul. Seven of the 18 precincts using the pre-2000 equipment remain to be counted.
Observers behaving peevishly: A Coleman challenger in St. Paul (video) had ballot objections overruled as “frivolous,” the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger reports. According to the Strib, Coleman lawyers told Ramsey County elections chief Joe Mansky that he couldn’t act pre-emptively, but Mansky prevailed after boasting, “I’m going to win all those challenges, I guarantee 100 percent.” (There were similar problems in Washington County, Stassen-Berger notes, and bickering in Minneapolis, says the Strib’ Mark Brunswick.)
Scattered problems from around the state: Funky arrows in Anoka County. A prematurely sealed envelope near Mankato; same in Willmar, with bonus stacking problems. Coffee-stained Coleman ballots in Worthington.
Smoother recount sailing: Only a few clueless around Fergus Falls and near Fargo. Stassen-Berger teases a Fox News reporter who was disappointed the recounting didn’t resemble pro wrestling. Hey, go interview Joltin’ Joe Mansky!
You’ll kick yourself if you do not play election judge in MPR’s “Is-It-Valid?” ballot game — using actual challenged votes! Staffer Than Tibbetts had on her his thinking cap when she created this one, and helpfully includes statutes for you to rule by. It’s tempting to settle all recount challenges this way, if you trusted unscientific electronic voting.
Franken won the right to get rejected absentee voters’ names, at least in Ramsey County, the PiPress’ Emily Gurnon writes. The campaign can also get written explanations of why ballots were rejected but can’t orally quiz local election officials. The Coleman campaign fumed Franken would cherrypick supporters’ ballots; the Strib’s Pat Lopez and Curt Brown say Franken’s forces played coy but have contacted individual voters before. Minnesota Independent’s Chris Steller talks to one who’s worried about her vote.
Absolutely the best piece I’ve read on the 1962 recount, which will make you feel pretty good about the current one, though the end game remains to be played. The PiPress drolly identifies author Patrick Coleman as “no relation to Sen. Norm Coleman,” without noting he’s brother to St. Paul Mayor Chris and Strib columnist Nick.
The Strib’s Mike Meyers writes that Minnesota is on track to lose 55,000 jobs through early 2010. He says that’s comparable to post 9/11 layoffs, which I find oddly reassuring. The losses wipe out the last three years of job gains. It took four-plus years to recover from the 2001 slump, double the national average, and we’ll be in a weaker position coming out of this one. What’s happened to our state?
Perhaps in response, the Growth & Justice think tank thinks Minnesota taxpayers should fork over another billion for schools. The Strib’s Norman Draper says the group, chaired by MinnPost CEO Joel Kramer, would earmark about a quarter of that to reduce K-3 class size and improve readiness. Another $115 mil would reduce college tuition. Costs elsewhere would drop as more productive citizens emerge. Howling critics are unheard from, and there’s already a multi-billion budget deficit looming.
Property taxes statewide will go up less in 2009 than in previous years, the PiPress’ Bill Salisbury reports. The 6.5 percent projected hike (which could come down after Truth-in-Taxation hearings) is less than 7.3 percent this year and 8.1 percent in the past three. The governor’s revenue commissioner credits recently enacted levy limits; school taxes, unbound by the caps, jumped 9.1 percent. No dissenting views on the limits’ effects are heard.
Esme Murphy’s sweeps-month interview with Tom Petters’ baby mama continues. Unsurprisingly, Tracy Mixon says Petters feels “betrayed” by whistleblower Deanna Coleman, with whom he partied in Vegas. Petters’ taped comments about fraud were just “sarcastic.”
Tom Daschle’s stint as a Mayo Clinic board member may cloud his nomination as Barack Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary, the New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick reports. Obama conflict-of-interest rules may force Daschle to recuse himself from any matter involving Mayo, potentially no small thing.
The market drop could slam Minneapolis taxpayers; three closed pension funds are the problem, the Strib’s Steve Brandt writes. Because no new retirees pay in, stock market drops are harder to make up. It will cost the city tens of millions. Across the river, everyone seems a bit surprised St. Paul’s budget is balancing. The Strib’s Gregory Patterson credits “a recently adopted policy of closely supervising hiring and expenses.” Recent?
The PiPress’ Leslie Brooks Suzukamo says national gasoline demand is inching back up, but Twin Cities driving is holding steady at a low point. Nationally, miles driven fell 4.4 percent in September from a year earlier, but gas prices have cratered since then. Still, a bad economy may lock in much of the motoring decline.
Biogas! The St. Paul City Council voted unanimously to let the Rock-Tenn plant near Hwy. 280 and I-94 try it. The PiPress’ Tad Vezner says ethanol byproducts would produce the rural fuel, which would be piped to the paper recycler. If it works, an alternative garbage-burner wouldn’t be needed.
Winona potbellied pig whose cruel treatment became a “Saturday Night Live” joke dead at age 6, the Winona Daily News’ Kevin Behr reports. The pig grew so fat in a caretaker’s hands that surgeons needed four hours to remove an embedded collar in her neck.
From AP: Oak Park Heights prisoner refuses to be released; thinks he hasn’t served enough time.
Nort spews: The Wolves overcame their fourth-quarter vapors to beat Philly 100-96; Sore Loser here and Britt Robson’s take here. Jacksonville receiver Troy Williamson threatened to punch out his Vikings ex-coach Brad Childress, but Williamson would probably miss; he has only four receptions this season.