The Republican plot to steal the governor’s mansion


The Minnesota Republican Party has jumped into the recount of the Governor’s race with the amp turned up to 11, screaming about ACORN and fraud and tabulation errors in Hennepin County. But anyone with any rudimentary understanding of recounts – and that includes everyone in Minnesota – knows that unless there is real, systemic fraud1, there is no chance whatsoever that Emmer will find the 9,000 votes that would allow him to overtake Mark Dayton and win the governor’s mansion.

And yet the Republicans are shouting as loudly as possible that they won’t be out-lawyered. They’re even asking their supporters to report “irregularities.” Among those they’ve helpfully suggested are things that aren’t illegal, such as giving voters rides to the polls, same-day registrations, and “excessive vouching” for newly registered voters; things that are illegal but were being done mainly by Republicans, like voter intimidation and campaigning in the polling place; and things that aren’t irregularities at all, like voting machines that jammed at some point during Election Day.

(Now, they’re not totally blinkered; they do suggest Republicans check to make sure their absentee ballot was counted, and I’ll join them in that. I want every vote counted. So whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Other, you should check the Secretary of State’s website out to see if your ballot was counted. And also, to get indoctrinated by ACORN.)

Why are the Republicans pushing so hard for a race that even one of Coleman’s attorneys suggests is out of reach? Because at this point, it isn’t about getting Tom Emmer elected. It’s about setting the stage to keep Mark Dayton from taking office right away in January.

The people of Minnesota, in their infinite wisdom, decided to turn the legislature over to the Republicans – indeed, they gave the Senate to the Republicans for the first time since the end of the nonpartisan era. At the same time, they decided to give the Governor’s mansion to Mark Dayton – not by much, but that was their decision. They voted for divided government, as they have for most of the past three decades.

This is not good enough for Republicans. They want unified government, so they can ram through budget cuts and tax breaks for the rich. And – dare to dream – redistricting, which would allow them to finally turn Minneapolis and St. Paul into one Congressional district with all those minority voters conveniently segregated from the rest of the state.

They can have that. All they have to do is stall.

Minnesota law says that a Governor serves until their replacement is seated. It’s happened before. In 1962, Elmer Andersen and Karl Rolvaag ended up in a recount that would ultimately be decided by just 91 votes. Andersen, the incumbent governor, ultimately lost, but served in office into early 1963, leaving only after the recount was concluded.

In this case, the incumbent governor is Tim Pawlenty, who – you may have heard – harbors presidential aspirations. While Gov. Timmy is not really interested in serving as governor past January (indeed, he’s been rather disinterested for most of the past two years), the prospect of passing big tax cuts, abortion restrictions, and a double-super-secret ban on gay Muslims has him quite happy to stay in office into overtime.  Add to that the fact that the biennial budget is due this year, and the Minnesota GOP’s incentive to drag out the recount for as long as possible, filing frivolous lawsuits and appealing nigh unto infinity, is obvious.

I believe we should have a recount. I believe that the race is close enough that we should go through the ballots one more time, just to make sure that a Woodbury election officer didn’t accidentally bring home a sack of 10,000 Emmer ballots by accident. I don’t think the outcome will change, but I think it’s close enough that we should take a look. That’s only reasonable, and only fair.

But if the initial recount comes back around 9,000 again? Then Emmer should concede.

The people of Minnesota chose to elect a Republican legislature and a DFL governor. It’s worth having a recount to make sure of that. But once we’ve made sure of that, we need to move on, to give Minnesotans the governor and the legislature they chose. Make no mistake: if the GOP intends to stretch this out simply to gain partisan advantage, then they are clearly, willingly, and recklessly denying the will of the people. They must not be allowed to get away with that. Period.

1Minnesota’s elections are among the cleanest in the nation; despite all the rancor and bitterness in the Coleman-Franken recount, Coleman’s attorney admitted during his arguments before the Minnesota Supreme Court that there was no indication of any fraud whatsoever.