Franken web video revs up recount campaign as spat intensifies over those missing 133 ballots

Franken video: News or propaganda? You be the judge

Is it news? Or is it propaganda?

Is it a clever coda to that screechy Norm Coleman-Al Franken campaign symphony that mercilessly attacked our senses?

Or can it be simply what it is? A collection of testimonials from people — albeit select people — who say a simple, indisputable thing: “I voted, it didn’t count, it’s not fair.”

You be the judge of that.

And after you’ve judged, know this …

The Franken campaign is gearing up for Friday’s State Canvassing Board meeting where the issue of sorting improperly rejected absentee ballots will be discussed.

It is not propaganda but news that the campaign went on the political offensive today by posting a 6-minute docYoumentary on YouTube, with the personal stories of seven voters.

It’s theater, yes, with one aggrieved voter saying she cast her absentee ballot so she could get out the vote on Election Day, but her ballot wasn’t counted because of an unspecified election judge error.

Another newly naturalized citizen shows his registration form, even though he was told by election officials he wasn’t registered. And then there’s the bedridden quadriplegic. (No, there are no violins.) He voted. It didn’t count. No fair.

On its face — if you can factor out that propaganda factor for a minute or two — the web video piece is effective. It shows real people and their real stories of their votes not counting, exactly what the Franken campaign has in mind.

That has been a Franken campaign mantra since Nov. 4: Count all the darn ballots, wherever you may find them.

It’s apparently so effective that within seconds of the video’s debut at Franken headquarters this afternoon, Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey issued a scathing statement, blasting the Franken campaign’s “shameless exploitation of individual Minnesotans,” and claiming that, for Franken, “the campaign clearly has not stopped … they’ve shown once again how low they will sink by attacking the work of local election officials as they seek to change the outcome of the Senate race.”

Again, you be the judge of that.

But, after a couple of viewings of the Franken video, I can note that no election official’s work is called into question. The voters merely state that, in their opinion, a wrong was done to them. They’re disappointed. They’re not belligerent.

And, of course, in the 1,000 or so estimated rejected absentee ballots, there are going to be lots of Coleman voters. Like, probably, 42 percent or more.

The idea behind the “commercial” — that’s what it feels like — is for media outlets (like MinnPost) to get it out to voters and, dare we say, the State Canvassing Board.

The four Minnesota judges and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie will gather Friday and begin discussing what to do with the improperly rejected absentee ballots.

“We have had an interest from the beginning in providing timely information to the press and the public about what’s going on in the recount,” said Franken lawyer Marc Elias. “We’ve released this video because it’s important for the press, the public and the Canvassing Board to understand that these are people. These are not abstractions.”

Franken communications director Andy Barr said, “We have no plans to do TV advertising.”

Meanwhile, the issue of the 133 missing ballots from Minneapolis was also a hot legal potato today. This morning, Coleman campaign lawyer Fritz Knaak sent a letter to Minneapolis elections official Cynthia Reichert urging her to only submit the recounted numbers from Ward 3, Precinct 1, and not the results from Election Night.

Knaak telegraphed that position in his news briefing Tuesday. It’s his opinion that Minnesota law should only include those votes in hand — exclusive of the can’t-be-found 133. The Coleman campaign wants more data from Reichert about who is registered and who signed in to vote on Election Day. Reichert so far hasn’t turned over that data.

In an eight-page letter — copied to the Canvassing Board — Knaak writes a virtual legal brief asserting his case. His position: the hand recount has to be the operative count and not the machine count, even if there are missing ballots.

Elias said this afternoon that he will soon be filing a brief with the Canvassing Board disputing Knaak’s point of view and “making it abundantly clear the weight of authority is clearly with counting them … At every opportunity when we reach a fork in the road, the Coleman campaign takes the fork toward not counting people’s votes and we take the fork toward counting them. For that, we both have pride and the law on our side.”

Can Elias attach a DVD of the video to his Canvassing Board brief? Or can he supply the Robed Ones with a link to the video for their viewing pleasure?

“Can we? … I don’t know what the format is, what they’ll accept,” Elias said.

Might he?

“We will be filing something in the next day or so,” Elias said, and that was all he said.

But Canvassing Board members better boot up their computers.

There’s a YouTube clip out there, and it sure seems to be meant for their eyes, ears and good judgments.

Jay Weiner can be reached at jweiner [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Related: Lessons from the recount: Officials look for silver lining

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/10/2008 - 06:12 pm.

    This Franken clip is pure “spin.”

  2. Submitted by Patrick Loch on 12/10/2008 - 10:06 pm.

    Ummm…I wonder how many people that had voted coleman had their ballots rejected as well. A good argument for something acknowledges both sides. This video is purely propaganda.

  3. Submitted by Ross Williams on 12/11/2008 - 12:30 pm.

    If you are looking for spin this is it “they seek to change the outcome of the Senate race.”

    The outcome will be determined by the voters. Since he is behind in the ballots already counted, I think its apparent that Franken believes the more ballots that are counted the more likely it is that he will make up that deficit. Its also obvious Coleman agrees.

    Unless there is some clear legal reason not to, my guess is that the canvassing board will vote unanimously to count ballots that were not rejected for a specific legal reason. And it probably won’t make any real difference in the outcome. Franken would need to get close to 60% of those votes to make up the difference and there is no reason to think the rejected ballots actually include any more for Franken than for Coleman.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 12/11/2008 - 02:41 pm.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is Franken being very careful to urinate in the political river along with the media sufficiently that later he can justify taking a Coleman win to the Senate and demanding they pick him and seat him. I see this coming.

  5. Submitted by Grace Kelly on 12/11/2008 - 05:46 pm.

    The heading is very misleading! It would be like me asking whether Jay Weiner is good journalist or a provider of Republican spin. Especially since there is no evidence of anything beyond a straightforward telling of facts. However, in the Republican viewpoint, facts that get in the way are just spin. Because reality does not matter in the Republican viewpoint. And Republicans have been long into making voting as difficult as possible to disenfranchise people who probably would not vote Republican.

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