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Published November 07 2010

Forum editorial: A divisive recount is certain

Here we go again. For the second time in as many election cycles, Minnesotans will be treated to what promises to be a down-and-dirty vote recount, this time to determine whether Democrat Mark Dayton or Republican Tom Emmer becomes governor.

The state got less-than-flattering national attention just two years ago when the race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken collapsed into a recount fiasco that lasted for months.

The Dayton/Emmer recount has all the signs of going the same way, but possibly more nasty and bitter than the 2008 Senate recount, which ultimately ended in Franken’s favor. It was settled in a courtroom, not in a voting booth.

Republican anger over what Republicans believe was a stolen Senate election boiled up last week over the prospect of a recount of the governor’s race. In what can only be described as petulance and pettiness, Republican State Party Chairman Tony Sutton said, “Something doesn’t smell right.” He suggested “fraud or incompetence” regarding the fact that Republican legislative candidates did so well and Emmer did not win handily. Sutton must be assuming Minnesotans don’t vote one way for a hometown legislator and another for governor. Election history shows they do.

“We are not going to be rolled this time,” Sutton blustered, as if to say the 2008 recount, which eventually was settled by Minnesota courts, robbed Coleman of his Senate seat. Even Coleman never went that far.

Democrats have not been much better with their opening salvos regarding a recount. They’ve started to line up cadres of lawyers to examine every ballot in every precinct. The race will degenerate into a battle of lawyers doing their thing, first at the precinct level and then in the courts. Lawyers are advocates for their clients, not objective analysts of elections. Expect some of the same players who carried Franken to victory to be at work again.

It’s shaping up to be another embarrassing mess for a state that used to take pride in the way it conducted elections. It’s hard to be proud when the 2008 Senate election was taken over by political operatives and lawyers, and decided by judges; harder still to be proud when the 2010 election for governor is barreling down the same road.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.