Five Minnesota television stations are asking to see all the uncounted absentee ballots in the Norm Coleman-Al Franken contest for U.S. Senate. Four do news, while the fifth shows re-runs (with a new news show weeks off); all are owned by Coleman backer Stanley Hubbard.
About 10,000 ballots were rejected and not counted for one reason or another during the statewide hand recount and election contest trial.
The stations’ request (pdf) also covers data about ballots that either side ejected from the recount under controversial rules from the Minnesota Supreme Court, and envelopes that show why ballots they contained were rejected.
The request, filed under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) by Hubbard Broadcasting TV stations KSTP, KSTC, WDIO, KSAX and KAAL, comes as an order is expected at any time in Coleman’s appeal to the state Supreme Court of his election-contest defeat.
It also comes only days after rightwing blogger Michael Brodkorb filed similar requests with several cities and counties. Brodkorb is soon to drop his blogging to assume the position of deputy chairman with the Republican Party of Minnesota.
It’s unclear what one of the stations, KSTC-TV (”Channel 45″), would do with the data requested: The station mainly shows syndicated entertainment and seems to have nothing to do with news or public affairs. UPDATE: KSTC starts a 9 p.m. newscast on July 13.
Hubbard Broadcasting owner Stanley Hubbard is a major contributor to the Republican Party and its candidates, including Coleman. He used the airwaves for which he holds a license to editorialize in favor of law enforcement agencies’ conduct during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, to which he also gave money. And indications are he lent his 125-foot yacht for a “Coleman for Senate Donor Appreciation Cruise.”
KAAL-TV offered this explanation of the request’s purpose:
We believe this information will help state officials, the news media, and the public determine how election officials came to their decisions and whether future changes in state election laws need to made.
That statement, and the timing of the request — months after partisan and media MGDPA requests in the thick of the recount’s ballot hunt — suggests a post-mortem effort akin to a news media review after the aborted recount of Florida votes in the 2000 presidential election.
The request assures local officials to whom it is addressed that the stations would not be able to identify voters by their separate examinations of ballots and envelopes. (One exception to that, not mentioned in the letter: ballots rejected because they contain identifying marks by the voter.)