Just after the recent death of Sen. Paul Wellstone, many Minnesotans became concerned about what would happen with the upcoming election. In addition to mourning the loss of eight lives, many were also eager to resolve any of the likely ballot issues that became so immediately important. At the time, the Minnesota state statutes were not clearly understood and any uncertainty had the prospect of tainting what is arguably one of the most pivotal Senate races in the past decade.
Although the nation has learned a lot about voting irregularities after the fiasco two years ago in Florida, Minnesota appears to be approaching a similar fate. Thursday’s Minnesota Supreme Court ruling will only encourage legal challenges on behalf of Republicans or the DFL.
Ironically, the ruling is an attempt to prevent the legal disputes that will still likely occur and it amounts to nothing more than an election change that offers no tangible benefit. Hearing a challenge from the DFL’s attorney, Alan Weinblatt, who had asked the court to nullify every absentee ballot, the court ruled that those who request new absentee ballots will receive them. The new ballots will list former Vice President Walter Mondale, who officially accepted the DFL’s endorsement as Wellstone’s replacement candidate at the party’s convention Wednesday night. Voters can now request the new ballots by mail or by phone. Although not exactly what the DFL was requesting, the party does support the ruling as does the state’s Republican Party.
Unfortunately, though, the ruling ultimately fails to resolve any of the expected ballot issues and further complicates an already contentious election. Minnesota election officials had already expected 104,000 absentee ballots, which equates to 5 percent of the total. Now, there will be several disputed absentee ballots. Those containing votes for Norm Coleman will be counted, and those containing votes for Paul Wellstone will be disallowed. However, votes for Mondale will be counted on the new ballots, as again will votes for Coleman. Some officials had already suggested that absentee voters simply go to the polls on Election Day which would invalidate their absentee ballots. Now, though, some will vote in person, and some will attempt to send in ballots, which must be dropped off at local election offices by 5 p.m. Monday or received in the mail Tuesday. Although the previous arrangement was itself problematic and the result would have been inaccurate, the new ruling introduces further complications. A more ideal solution could have been reached.