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Daily Glean: Strib editorialists: Bring on recount lawsuit!

Setting up Franken’s Wednesday defeat on absentees. Also: faking foreclosure.

The Strib editorial page encourages a recount lawsuit. Technically, the newspaper says the State Canvass Board shouldn’t assess possibly valid but rejected absentee ballots. Refusing the re-look forces a court challenge, it acknowledges. The Canvass Board takes up the matter Wednesday. A Secretary of State’s Recount Guide is clear such absentee ballots shouldn’t be canvassed, only “validly cast” ones, but the underlying state law doesn’t say whether that excludes invalidly rejected absentees.

Norm Coleman’s margin grew to 172 votes with 74 percent of ballots recounted. (The Strib has the margin at 210 and 78 percent.) The PiPress’ Jason Hoppin notes Al Franken has lost votes in Hennepin County, where gains were expected. Franken has lost a net 49 votes to Norm Coleman, though Coleman has issued 31 more challenges in the state’s most populous county. Lots of Minneapolis votes remain.

Endless challenges: Minnesota Independent’s Chris Steller says total challenges are as close as the election: 1,401 by Coleman; 1,400 by Franken. The high number makes it tricky to assess who will win, the Strib’s Bob von Sternberg writes. With projections now around 4,000 challenges, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie tells MPR’s Tim Pugmire that Canvass Board judgments will “stretch on for a long period of time.” One analyst figures at 3 minutes per ballot, assessing the pile would take five 40-hour weeks. 


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The day’s story: found and missing ballots that everyone agrees should be counted. Forum Communications’ Kelly Smith reports that 61 ballots were discovered in Becker County, which is Coleman country; they haven’t been counted, but will be today. No one says anything untoward happened; the official reason is “electoral oversight.” AP says Franken forces are alarmed about missing ballots throughout the state; recount totals aren’t meshing with Election Day cross-checks.

Mad county recount officials: Forum’s Scott Wente says Goodhue County officials castigated Franken challengers for frivolousness. Both campaigns were fooling around in a Dakota precinct with 50 challenges, KARE’s John Croman says. The PiPress’ Dave Orrick writes that a 100-year-old blind woman’s absentee vote was properly rejected after all. (The paper reported otherwise earlier.)

Dave Durenberger and Nick Coleman agree: If we had Instant Runoff Voting, we wouldn’t be in this mess. I’m an acknowledged ranked-voting fan and believe in its many advantages. Those include less acrimonious elections (you have to compete for second choices, too) and fairer results (a minority block can’t win if the majority block is split between two candidates). But the current hot selling point doesn’t wash: IRV won’t forgo recounts. Close races can happen no matter the method.

The PiPress editorial page does a Q-and-A with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who says Barack Obama will be all about the fiscal stimulus and not so much about the bailout. She wants to bail out the auto industry as a jobs protection plan but again laments execs’ lack of a plan. She also talks of a “federal health-care board” that will rein in (ration) costs based on a Mayo Clinic protocol. New Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle is on the Mayo board.

As Klobuchar praises the president-elect, Norm Coleman castigates Obama’s policies as “simply increasing spending,” Forum Communication’s Don Davis writes. Coleman seems to reject Keynesian principles when he says, “We cannot spend our way to economic recovery. We should not just throw money at the economy and run the debt even higher. Rather we must, in a fiscally responsible manner, look to policies that actually spur economic growth and create jobs.”

It may be more exciting than faking orgasms: faking foreclosure! MPR’s Jessica Mador says people who can pay their mortgages are trying to convince lenders they’re in trouble to get loan reductions. One guy says he started paying late to get the mortgage company to negotiate. (I’ve heard of people “canceling” their newspaper subscription for the same reason.) But you’ll have to prove hardship and could be on the hook for lenders’ legal fees if you’re caught cheating on your legal contract.

Playing “chicken” with Diana Pierce? Comcast has threatened to yank KARE11 from its cable systems Dec. 18, the PiPress’ Leslie Brooks Suzukamo writes. The two sides don’t have a retransmission agreement, and Comcast is required to give 30-day notice. History indicates this is a headline-grabbing formality.

A civilly disobedient RNC protester will face trial for setting up an illegal encampment on Harriet Island, the PiPress’ John Brewer reports. Although Cheri Honkala’s lawyer says she and her buds were just trying to find a place to sleep, police say it was more purposeful than that, and a court agreed.

A Latina assistant Minneapolis city attorney is suing because of a possibly discriminatory oral exam. The Strib’s David Chanen writes of an alleged “minority row” in the office; only 8 percent of such attorneys taking the exam were promoted, compared with 31 percent of the whites. The city’s civil rights department ruled against the exam because “right” answers were unclear. The city attorney responds that half of minority hires have been promoted in the past 11 years and the overall non-Anglo employement in the office is high.

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Hmm. The Strib’s James Walsh pens a long piece on a jerky strip club owner who sues people over $44 and holds up land deals for $2. Now, Larry Kladek is in dutch with the IRS for rigging an ATM machine to pump $2 million into a secret account. Not much on the ATM, but a lot on all the little people Kladek stepped on.

Northwest’s flight attendant union is suing Delta to stop forced seniority integration with the acquirer’s non-union sky servers. The PiPress’ John Welbes says the NWA workers want a combined unionization vote first, but Delta says seniority lists can be combined without collective bargaining.

Nice: Local messenger service drives compensation below minimum wage by deducting insurance and GPS costs from employee paychecks. Little Canada-based Quicksilver Messenger Service must pay back $590,000 to about 1,000 workers, the PiPress’ Julie Forster writes.

Traffic roundabouts kill cows, from KARE’s Boyd Hupert.

The last refuge of sweeps-month scoundrels: a Jody Huisentruit story. KSTP says Mason City, Iowa, detectives are asking about an Arkansas anchor’s murder. Both victims were telegenic blondes; Huisentruit’s killing is 13 years old, but the story is often reanimated. Funny the police ask these questions when ratings are being sampled. In the land of the living, Fox9 goes for ratings gold with yet another Paul Douglas interview. WCCO looks at a puppy mill.

Not local, but a nice nugget from WCCOer Jason DeRusha’s “Good Question”: Americans spend four times as much on texting as going to the movies. Text-message prices are high because that’s what you’ll pay.

The Minnesota Museum of American Art is putting itself into mothballs, the Strib’s Tim Harlow and Mary Abbe report. It’s operated at a deficit for three years. The MMAA’s home — a Ramsey County-owned garage — is being put up for sale. The Stribbers write the museum has been “in decline” since failing to raise money for a building in the late ’80s. Slightly more than 10,000 patrons viewed the exhibits in 2007.

Nort spews: Despite giving up three goals in the final six minutes, the Wild beat Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals 4-3 behind rookie Cal Clutterbuck’s first two NHL goals. The Wild remain five points back of Vancouver with three games in hand. Sore Loser here.