After a campaign ends, it’s best if everyone takes a deep breath, steps back and finds a quiet place to sit for several days. Sometimes, like now with a close gubernatorial vote, that’s not possible and the same testosterone-fueled hubris driving campaign rhetoric carries into accusations of voting fraud, cheating and theft.
Campaigns create a competitive environment because they are, after all, competitions. Consequently, separating political activities (i.e. campaigning) from legal procedures, like vote recounts, requires a different frame of mind. Every recount necessitates a political strategy but, at its core, it’s a legally defined procedure, bound by mostly well-defined rules.
Candidate Mark Dayton received about 8,800 more votes than candidate Tom Emmer. Because of the 2008 US Senate seat recount, Minnesota’s absentee balloting procedure was tightened and is unlikely to be the source of an outcome reversal. That leaves vote tabulating machine error. The voting machines make considerably fewer errors than human hand-counting. Consequently, the Dayton lead will hold and Mark Dayton will eventually be sworn in as Minnesota’s next governor.
The key word here, however, is “eventually.”
Understanding this outcome, expect conservatives to construct a legal strategy to delay the Dayton oath of office. If it can be pushed back far enough, GOP-majority caucuses will assume control of the State House and the State Senate. Under Minnesota’s constitution, Governor Pawlenty’s term of office won’t end until Governor-elect Dayton is sworn in, replacing Pawlenty. This scenario gives conservative policy makers the capacity to propose, pass and sign legislation into law. They will not yield the opportunity to act on their conservative policy agenda.
Just thinking about this outcome raises my collar temperature so you’ll understand why I’ve waited nearly a week to write this. I’m not pleased with the election’s outcome but Minnesotans voted in new legislative majorities along with a progressive governor. Pious, insistent outrage won’t change the outcome but it will further undermine public confidence in public electoral processes.
It’s time to focus on the things that really matter: education, healthcare, transportation and economic development. Moving Minnesota forward is a nonpartisan charge.