‘This is not Florida … This is Minnesota’

Author and journalist Jay Weiner is coming to the U to promote his book.

by Andre Eggert

When Roger Magnuson, one of Norm ColemanâÄôs lawyers during the 2008 Senate recount, began drawing parallels between that case and the Florida recount during the 2000 presidential election, Justice Paul H. Anderson  was quick to interrupt him.
âÄúCounsel âĦ I know youâÄôve been to Florida,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúThis is not Florida, and IâÄôm just not terribly receptive to you telling us that weâÄôre going to Florida âĦ This is Minnesota, weâÄôve got a case in Minnesota. Argue the case in Minnesota.âÄù
Magnuson had worked on George W. Bush âÄôs Florida recount case, which took 36 days. The Coleman-Franken recount took 35 weeks.
Nearly two years after Election Day 2008, Jay Weiner, who covered the recount for MinnPost.com, has now released his book âÄúThis Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won The Minnesota Senate Recount,âÄù which has the behind-the-scenes details of the longest and most expensive recount in American history.
WeinerâÄôs political reporting began shortly after he took a buyout at the Star Tribune and moved to MinnPost, where he covered the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. After coming back, Weiner said he was asked to cover the recount.
âÄúAt the time when they said, âÄòWould you like to do a recount?âÄô I thought it would last a couple of weeks,âÄù Weiner said. âÄúI didnâÄôt know what a recount was going to look like.âÄù
The book, at 221 pages, follows Marc Elias, who was FrankenâÄôs head lawyer, and the actions taken by both sides.
âÄúItâÄôs a fly on the wall, insidersâÄô look at decisions made âÄî and decisions not made âÄî by lawyers on both sides,âÄù Weiner said.
The title comes from part of the recount trial at the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The book breaks the proceedings down to the examination of single votes, including Donald SimmonsâÄô.
Simmons cast an absentee ballot on Oct. 29, days before the election.
Everything about the ballot seemed correct, except for the fact that Simmons was dead by the time proceedings started, according to state health records.
By law, he had to be alive at some point on Nov. 4 in order for his ballot to be counted.
The court later found that Simmons had died on Thanksgiving Day, which validated his vote.
Glenn Altschuler, the vice president of University Relations at Cornell University, reviewed the book for the Star Tribune and gave it a mostly positive review.
Though Altschuler lives on the east coast, he said the book was still relevant and dismissed the idea that the recount was a state issue.
âÄúThis was a drama played out on the national as well as the state scene almost hour-by-hour,âÄù he said.
There are some significant similarities between sports and politics, Weiner said. But he added that âÄúobviously, politics and the determination of the 60th, filibuster-proof senator in the U.S. Senate is significantly more important than whether the Twins beat the Oakland AâÄôs last Thursday.âÄù
Weiner briefly taught a sports journalism class at the University of Minnesota.
Mark Wollemann, the assistant sports editor and WeinerâÄôs supervisor when he worked at the Star Tribune, said this book isnâÄôt so much Weiner delving into political reporting as much as WeinerâÄôs urge to find the story within the story.
âÄúJay was always the kind of person who would be incredibly diligent,âÄù Wollemann said. âÄúI think that writing this book was just an extension of his work as a reporter. It was a fascinating Minnesota story.âÄù
Weiner said the book will appeal to political and election âÄújunkies,âÄù but he hopes it has more general appeal.
âÄúThis is a quick read, a fun read that will give people real insights into the longest, largest, most expensive recount in American history.âÄù
âÄú[I] donâÄôt want to make things dreary and have students pull their hair out and fall asleep,âÄù he said.
At 4 p.m. Thursday, Weiner will be at the Coffman Union Bookstore for a discussion and book signing.