In Minnesota, Sorting Out Voters’ Intentions

By Beacon Staff

More than two weeks after Election Day, plenty of elections aren’t settled. In the Flathead, a recount is scheduled for Tuesday in the race between Democrat Cheryl Steenson and incumbent Rep. Craig Witte, R-Kalispell. Steenson leads by 20 votes out of 4,044 cast. If the result were to flip, it would give control of the state House, deadlocked at 50-50, to Republicans. James Conner at Flathead Memo has a thorough analysis on why that is unlikely to happen.

The nation’s most high-profile recount, however, is underway in Minnesota. The race between Democratic challenger Al Franken, a former comedian, and incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman is separated by a few hundred votes out of about 2.9 million cast. Election officials are recounting ballots by hand, and I don’t envy their job.

Both candidates have challenged a number of ballots and lawsuits are inevitable. And much of what will likely be an ugly result can be blamed on the voters. It’s understandable if an elderly person with arthritis has a hard time darkening an oval properly, what’s not is someone who fills in an oval, then pencils in “Lizard People” as a write-in candidate.

Minnesota Public Radio has an entertaining sampling of challenged ballots in the race between Franken and Coleman. What was the voter’s intent? That’s what election officials have to determine. Did he or she intend to vote for Franken or Lizard People? Who is Lizard People, anyway? The answer is subjective, when elections are supposed to be anything but.