Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Frivolity and the recount

Day One of the recount is marked by frivolous challenges; ALSO: Turns out there wasn’t massive voter fraud in the last election; our public defenders are overworked; Restaurant Rater gets mixed reviews; A lot of mustaches at Xcel Center.

Ah, the recount, which sometimes resembled the slowest horse race on earth. We’re probably not going to list every single gain and loss experienced by the candidates on every day of the thing, but yesterday was the first day, so what the heck: DFL candidate Mark Dayton picked up 20 votes, MN-GOP candidate Tom Emmer lost four, as reported by the Star Tribune.

It was a hard day of gamesmanship, with Emmer observers tossing out as many challenges as they could muster, detailed by Mark Zdechlik of Minnesota Public Radio. In Hennepin County on the first day of the recount, 150 challenges were deemed frivolous, and 95 percent of those came from Emmer’s camp. In Renville County, Emmer’s people challenged 423; all but one were deemed frivolous.

Jason Hoppin and Dave Orrick from the Pioneer Press give two examples of challenges from the Emmer side: “In Hennepin County, one Emmer volunteer challenged a clear overvote, with ovals for two gubernatorial candidates filled in; the volunteer said it should be an Emmer vote. In another, an Emmer volunteer challenged a Dayton ballot with what looked to be a stray pencil mark near a name in a different race, saying the vote should be tossed.” In the meanwhile, the Strib lists a case where an Emmer challenger claimed a blank vote should be counted for Emmer.

This sort of overreaching is understandable when you consider that Emmer must find almost 9,000 votes in order to win, as the Associated Press reminds us. In the last recount, the total number of votes shifted only 787 votes, which was enough to get Al Franken a win then, but wouldn’t do much for Emmer now. The recount should go faster now, but, then, the last recount only took 47 days — it was the six months of lawsuits that kept Franken out of office. And both sides are preparing for post-recount legal action, according to the AP.

Article continues after advertisement

While we’re on the subject of electoral frivolity: You may remember that an organization with the title Minnesota Majority assembled a list of voters who they insisted were felons and could not vote in the last election, charging widespread fraud in the election of Al Franken. Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent provides the Minnesota County Attorneys Association’s response to the charge, after their investigation: It was wildly overstated and frivolous. Almost every single person on the Minnesota Majority’s list of 1,000 could vote legally, and the total amount of voter fraud discovered equaled just 0.00089 percent of votes cast in 2008. The Attorneys Association voiced noticeable irritation with having to chase down this bugaboo: “It just was a lot of work given to a very poor list,” a representative for the group said, also saying that “[t]his matter has taken up considerable prosecutor and law enforcement involvement and resources at a time of dwindling budgets. It also impacts the strapped budgets of our public defenders and the courts as well.”

Emmer has promised that, if elected, he would look to instigate a top-to-bottom analysis of state expenses in order to eliminate unneeded expenses. If he should pick up the 9,000 missing votes, looks like we already know a pretty good place to start: partisans wasting tax dollars working the refs to try to make it seem there is massive voter fraud when there is no evidence of any such thing. And while we’re on the subject, we at the Glean can’t help but wonder if making 422 frivolous challenges to the recount in one county alone makes the process less expensive — or more expensive?

Do public defenders really have so little time and resources? According to a story by MPR’s Jessica Mador, yes, they really do. Specifically: “Fewer than 400 Minnesota public defenders will handle about 170,000 cases this year.” As one defender points out, with the amount of cases he handles, he winds up having about 12 minutes per person.

In other news: Here’s an interesting tale. There’s this iconic photograph from World War II showing two young soldiers seated in the sand during the battle of Peleliu. The identity of one of the soldiers has been a mystery for a more than a half century, as he was misidentified in a caption on the photo. Using the Internet, researchers were able to track down a man with a similar name, and contacted his daughter in Afton, Minn. She took one look at the photo and recognized her father. You can read the story and see the photograph here, and there you have it — one of those stories only made possible by the web.

In arts: We’re going to include fine dining in arts today, in order to link to Restaurant Rater on Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine, which makes an attempt at aggregating various reviews a restaurant has gotten and then coming up with a cumulative score. Like a neurotic child, the creators of the rater seems to take equal pleasure from positive and negative attention — they link to a City Pages item that calls it “pretty awesome” as well as a Shefzilla review that declares that the rater “diminishes the entire community, and cheapens the significance of subsequent recognition.”

One complaint is that a review is just a snapshot of how a restaurant does at a certain moment in time — and this is entirely true, as it has been this author’s experience that restaurants often open with dynamiter cocktail menus, and, a year later, when the original bar staff has moved on, replaces that menu with horrible sugary vodka concoctions that are unpalatable to all except those who think alcohol should taste like candy. But, then, this is an issue with the Internet in general — if you look up a review for a restaurant you’re thinking of going to, the review may be a year or so old, and who is to warn you that the magnificent Old Fashioned they once made has been replaced by something called Double Chocolate Martooni?

In sports: Minnesota Pictures offers a glimpse into a world record bring broken at Xcel Energy Center. No, it had nothing to do with hockey. Instead, every single person with a mustache was invited onto the ice. The previous record for most mustaches assembled in one place seems to be a relatively picayune 150 — and you see more mustaches than that at First Avenue on a Friday night, although they are mostly of the ironic sort. At the Xcel Center, it is estimated there were about 1,500 mustaches. You’re going to have to go to a convention of ’70s porn stars, Burt Reynolds impersonators, firemen and police officers to see more.