Count the missing 133, Ellison says of Franken-Coleman recount

Minnesota’s 5th District Rep. Keith Ellison, whose district includes the precinct where the 133 Minneapolis ballots are missing, is urging the State Canvassing Board to include those numbers in the recount process to make sure every vote is counted.

We don’t want to be this year’s Florida, he said in a letter to the board Thursday. Here’s what he had to say:

To the Members of the State Canvassing Board:

This Friday, December 12th, you will have the opportunity to uphold Minnesota’s well-deserved reputation as being the state with the cleanest elections, and the state with the highest voter turn-out.  Minnesota has this reputation because of our belief that everybody counts; everybody matters; and every vote counts.  We help people vote, through same day registration. We do not look for ways to prevent people from voting. More importantly, our underlying assumption here is that when people vote, their vote is counted!

We do not want to be this year’s Florida, or this year’s Ohio. We want to continue to be the role model of clean and purposeful elections. We do that by counting votes, not by discarding a person’s single most vital contribution to democracy.

Tomorrow, you will indeed have the opportunity to uphold our well-deserved reputation by safeguarding the votes of two particular groups of Minnesotans who did nothing wrong. These voters, in fact, did everything right — the Minnesota way — to make their voices heard on Election Day. They did their civic duty by casting lawful votes — votes that should be counted.

The first group is very personal to me; they are from my district. My whole campaign was geared toward each vote counting. Our campaign appealed to many new immigrants who had never voted out of fear of retribution, and to students who would be voting for the first time.  Our theme was: “Everyone counts; everyone matters.””

This group you will look at contains 133 voters in a precinct near the University of Minnesota.  These voters stood in line on Election Day, and their votes were recorded along with the votes of another 1,896 voters in that precinct.  However, the envelope containing these 133 votes was lost.

The Secretary of State has suggested, with over a century of legal precedent behind him, that the State Canvassing Board can ensure that lost ballots do not result in the loss of the franchise for these Minnesotans: by reverting to the canvassed and audited vote totals for this precinct.

Predictably — but still incredibly for Minnesotans — the Coleman campaign has argued that the board should instead throw out these 133 votes and disenfranchise these 133 voters.
If that were to happen, what do I tell the young Somali student who voted for the first time — and who convinced her parents to do so as well because “Everyone counts; everyone matters”?”  What do I tell the 71-year-old African American man who was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and who voted once under Jim Crow when election officials gave him a piece of paper, a pint of whiskey, and a five dollar bill?  He didn’t know what they did with that paper and never voted again — until now.  He voted in 2008 for the first time and he knew who he voted for proudly.   But are the votes such as his, the young Somali woman’s, and 133 others being counted?

The second group consists of voters who cast lawful absentee ballots that were rejected improperly. As the board is aware, there are only four legal reasons for rejecting an absentee ballot in our state. However, the sorting process underway in counties around the state has revealed hundreds of absentee ballots that were rejected for some other reason than the four criteria allowable. These ballots were improperly rejected, and the Minnesotans behind those ballots were disenfranchised.  These are not hanging chads, or damaged punch cards. They are absentee ballots improperly rejected, and the board should count them.

Whether a voter’s ballot has been lost or improperly rejected, that voter should still have their voice heard.  Here in Minnesota, we pride ourselves in assuring that votes are counted. We go to great lengths to do so.  We do so because voting is sacred to Minnesotans; it is in our bones; it is our obligation. And, again, it is the reason the rest of the nation looks to us in awe at voter turnout out as high as 80 or 90% in some counties.

The State Canvassing board can uphold Minnesota’s hard-earned reputation, by protecting the votes of Minnesotans — all of them — by counting these contested ballots. Failure to count these ballots does not meet the legal requirement that our election be fair and accurate. Even worse, – failure to count these ballots undermines the trust Minnesotans have implicitly given their election officials. Voting is indeed sacred in Minnesota. We vote because we believe it is our duty. We have never given it a second thought that our vote may not be counted – until now.  Please restore the faith Minnesotans have in you and their elections.  Count all the votes.

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