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Election Day: Last words, vote challengers and illegal buttons

Average turnouts expected; local press offers last words and last thoughts before the polls close; TC Daily Planet profiles native voices; Randy Moss gets his walking papers.

Ah, Election Day, the one chance every two years the Lizard People get to take over. Will this be the big surge we have been promised, in which disgruntled voters storm the polling places to throw out the bums that have been in charge for the past two years, or, conversely, to make sure the bums stay in power? Well, not if Secretary of State Mark Ritchie guesses right — according to Tim Nelson and Mark Zdechlik of Minnesota Public Radio, Ritchie is predicting an average voter turnout today. What is average? About 60 percent of the voters. The remaining 40 percent are presumably the percentage of the population immune to relentless chastising from their friends on Twitter and Facebook.

But, of course, predicting elections is a fool’s game, unless you’re Nate Silver. To hear some local conservatives tell it, polling places need to be ready for an organized bloc of felons, illegal immigrants and, perhaps, corpses, lining up to vote, as though Minnesota elections were part of the Tammany Hall political machine. Sasha Aslanian of MPR details how the MN-GOP has recruited people to be vote challengers, which Tony Sutton, state chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, describes as being like “an unarmed security guard in a mall. Their role is to be a deterrent to discourage people from engaging in activities that they shouldn’t be engaging in.” Or, if it’s the Mall of America, to keep unaccompanied children out after a certain hour.

Several groups, including the Minensota Tea Party affiliate, have been waging a legal war for the right to wear T-shirts emblazoned with political slogans and to pass out buttons illustrated with a watchful eye and the words “ID Me.” The logic behind this is a bit hard to grasp, as such political displays are illegal, and, besides, there is demonstrably too little voter fraud to turn an election. Whatever the case, as Leif Knutson of FOX9 reports, a federal judge has ruled against the buttons. Voters who wear them won’t be turned away, but could be prosecuted. Annie Baxter of MPR reprints an email from the Tea Party Patriots of the Twin Cities requesting volunteers to wear the buttons anyway, presumably in order to challenge the ruling in the courts.

Of course, what conservatives see as policing the polls, liberals see as voter intimidation — in the Sasha Aslanian story posted above, DFLers are bringing in their own vote challengers to watch for behavior that might discourage legitimate voters. Vote suppression is not unheard of in Minnesota — MinnPost’s Jay Weiner offers up a history of it that demonstrates that in our short  history as a state, Minnesota has as much of a history of exclusion as it has of inclusion, and that our current law excluding felons (which is part of the hoopla over crooked elections) may effectively prevent 17 percent of African-American men in state from voting.

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Jason Hoppin of the Pioneer Press prepares us for the election with a list of questions. Most are variations of “who will win?” but Hoppin also raises an interesting question in the 6th Congressional District. Hoppin points out that the race between Rep. Michele Bachmann and Tarryl Clark might end up getting a lot of people in that district to vote — after all, they spent some $15 million trying to get people to vote. Obviously, the eyes of the nation are on that congressional race, but if there is a surge in voters from that district, will it affect other elections? Or, as Hoppin puts it, who do they want in St. Paul?

Tom Halden from FOX9 gets what he calls “final words” from the three front-running gubernatorial candidates, which seems like unfortunate phrasing, as now one is forced to imagine them in shackles being led down a darkened hallway with a Pat O’Brien by their side reading the Last Rites. DFL candidate Mark Dayton speaks of the election using a hockey metaphor, GOP candidate Tom Emmer says he thinks it’s no longer about partisan politics (presumably he hasn’t seen the Tea Party T-shirts), and IP candidate Tom Horner says he still thinks he’s in the thick of it. This reporter interviewed the Lizard People candidate, and he also thinks he might have a chance. Also, Harold Stassen has at least one vote.

All right, enough elections stuff for today. In other news, The AP reports that there is a young bull moose wandering in southwest Minnesota, presumably looking for a polling place to cast a vote for Theodore Roosevelt. Chris Havens of the Strib reports that the company that took over Taste of Minnesota has run out of money and can’t pay its bills; logically, the organization should just rename itself “A Taste of Minnesota Economics.” Bill MacAuliffe of the Strib tells us that preliminary reports put last year’s tornadoes at 104, putting Minnesota at the top of the nation for twisters, so at least we can brag about being No. 1 at something.

In arts: Sheila Regan of the TC Daily Planet offers up a piece on local American Indian authors. The story addressed the work of Louis Erdrich, of course, not only because of her considerable body of work but also because her bookstore, Birchbark, “gives special emphasis to native voices.” Regan’s story provides a nicely varied introduction to American Indian writers and the local institutions that support them.

In sports: According to KARE11, Randy Moss refused to take question from the press Sunday, telling them that since he loses $25K every time he doesn’t talk to them, he’s just going to interview himself instead. “‘m not answering any more questions for the rest of this year,” he told the press. Coach Brad Childress apparently agreed with the sentiment, and told him to hit the bricks.

All right. Time to go vote. LIZARD PEOPLE 2010!