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Forgetfulness and counting ballots

Fri, Dec 12th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

If you're like me the mind plays little tricks on you from time to time. Chalk it up to age, too many things to think about; in your mind one second, gone the next.

Is there a difference between forgetfulness and not remembering what you were thinking about a few seconds ago?

Many of us, especially those now calling themselves senior citizens, know what I mean. You think, "as soon as I'm done with this (whatever you are doing) I must take out the garbage, or the truck will come before I can get the stuff out and we'll be stuck with stinky stuff for a week."

The next thing you know, the truck has come and gone and you're still doing whatever is was you were doing, totally oblivious to the needs of hauling garbage. After a while you do remember the garbage and of course it's too late.

Remembering or not and forgetting or not brings me to the saga of the lost, misplaced, and forgotten ballots of our on-going US Senate race. As of this writing the Canvassing Board is still hard at work trying to figure out who won. We've heard of the ballots forgotten in the trunk of someone's car, the ballots lost behind a file cabinet, the ballots jammed in a scanning machine, taken out and then counted twice, or maybe not counted at all. Now there are ballots missing someplace in the bowels of a building in Minneapolis. Then there are the thousands of ballots being disputed by the surrogates for Mr. Coleman and Mr. Franken.

Until the hanging chad party in Florida in the 2000 Presidential election, I always assumed that ballots were counted, that the tallies reported were for the most part accurate, and the winner was the winner. Sure, some dead people in Chicago may have voted for John Kennedy in 1960, but even without their help he would have won. Now I find that people with very good intentions can't count, or can't keep the ballots straight, or can't properly feed them through the voting machines. I don't mean to pick on the folks who serve as election judges. But why are ballots mishandled? Why are ballots misplaced or lost? Isn't there a protocol to be followed that assures voters that our sacred right is being handled properly? One would think so.

And, how about those folks who can't follow instructions on how to fill out a ballot so that their vote will be properly and accurately recorded; or the folks who don't follow instructions. Should their ballots count if they didn't fill in the little oval, but instead put an "X" through it? Is it truly right or fair or proper for a third party to decide what a voter's intent was?

Another thing of interest and a bit disconcerting is that in some places in previous elections, not all absentee ballots were even counted. Maybe they were not counted because the results from the tallies done by other means were so overwhelming in favor of one candidate that the absentee ballots would not have made a difference. But, that's just not right. We tout to all the world that we are the country of one person one vote; that our elections are fair, honest and above reproach. We even condemn other nations for their supposedly shoddy handling of national elections and insist that there be election monitors to oversee the process. Well, perhaps it's time we took our own advice and tightened up our election processes.

One can assume that our senatorial recount is being conducted by the rules as set forth by the elections laws in place. And, that the Minnesota Secretary of State and the Canvassing Board will continue to do the very best they can in deciding the election outcome. But, even after a winner has been declared, one might just wonder if there are still ballots someplace that memory and time has forgotten.

Alan Lipowiz lives in Peterson.

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