Minnesota's senator's day off

Sen. Harry Reid: I would like to call the roll so we can establish a quorum.Clerk: Akaka, Alexander, Barrasso … Wicker, Wyden. I counted 99. Hey Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, where is your colleague? Is he hunting moose or playing chicken with Canadian Mounties? He was supposed to be here on Jan. 3…

Although I enjoy the Senate clerk's tirades on C-Span 2, it's time to fill the Minnesota vacancy, so at the very least the Senate can get on with its intramural basketball league. If only they could settle things with a wrestling match, former Gov. Jesse Ventura could be sworn in by day's end.

Unfortunately though, the second Minnesota seat is trapped in legal limbo, as we wait while Republican incumbent Norm Coleman pleads his case to have 4,800 absentee ballots admitted so he can overtake the slim lead of Democratic challenger Al Franken. This is two months after a preliminary count, when it looked like Coleman was going to hold his seat, as he led by 215 votes, but this slim margin triggered an automatic state recount. (This is when Coleman announced Franken shouldn't challenge the results in court.)

Minnesota election officials then went through the 2.9 million ballots by hand, as representatives from both sides observed the process and issued challenges to certain ballots. After this contentious effort, which included ballots being misplaced in cars and left in voting machines, Minnesota's independent canvassing board concluded that Franken won by 225 votes. Undeterred by the task of netting 226 votes, Coleman challenged the results on the basis that he could find enough votes of his that were illegally rejected and enough Franken votes that were improperly accepted.

That's where we are now, with Coleman half-heartedly (he's already accepted another job) trying to get 4,800 absentee ballots accepted and Franken offering up 700 votes he'd like reviewed. This is all made possible by the fact that the average voter is stupid and the recount process is subjective.

Because voters can't follow directions and because states arbitrarily determine the validity of ballots, it's not uncommon for the courts to weigh in. Most likely though, Franken's lead will hold, as these votes have already been counted at least twice, and will now be held to a much higher standard.

The problem here is not the review process, which has been thorough and above board, as opposed to Florida in 2000. The flaw in the system occurs on Election Day and revolves around the room for error that allows for the introduction of doubt and ambiguity.

This is not just symptomatic of Minnesota, which is comparatively light years ahead of other states concerning voting, but rather indicative of a country that is apathetic about elections. Much of this stems from the fact that our voter turnout peaks around 63 percent but in large part it is the product of politicians who want to ensure the status quo.

We need to break from this cycle and demand better funding for the Federal Election Commission so that it can create and enforce elections laws that ensure the voice of the people doesn't require over two months of interpreting. u

Dave Lombardo is a senior poli-sci major who will be back just as soon as he fixes the whole voting process.

In