Thursday, August 23, 2012

Recount Complete, Dehn to Be Certified as Winner of 59B DFL Primary

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Apologies for the terrible photo of a photo.  I am still unpacking and cannot for the life of me find the cord for my camera.  Actual recount photos to be uploaded as soon as possible.

This morning I got my first taste of how an election recount is handled.  Turns out the process is a cure for insomnia.  To start, the rules were read so that everyone was clear on how the day would proceed.  This was an administrative recount only, and would be limited to whether ballots were counted properly for each candidate.  Voter eligibility or possible campaign violations would not be considered at this event.  Since no one apparently contested the election results, the recount is expected to be the final tally for the DFL primary and Dehn will emerge as the winner.

Amid my criticism of how the final days of the election played out, I said that the time would come when we unite as a party and as a community and move forward.  For those of us voting on the DFL ticket at least, that time is now.

The chance for the recount being overturned were slim--the vast majority of ballots were counted correctly the first time.  For the ballots that weren't, those would very likely be statistically representative of the election as a whole.  So once the rules were explained, we got to the actual ballot counting itself, which was sort of like watching someone else check out a library book but less exciting because it took all day.  Even though the observers' area was full, hardly anyone spoke.  The ballot counters announced each ward and precinct, ceremoniously unsealed the ballots, and counted away.  Actual challenges to the ballots were quite rare, but did happen once while I was present...

DEHN SUPPORTER:  This voter clearly marked the oval next to Raymond Dehn.

COLE SUPPORTER:  I contest this ballot!  I'm looking at it and I see a vote for Terra Cole.

ELECTION JUDGE:  In my unbiased opinion, that is a bug, not a vote for either candidate.

DEHN SUPPORTER:  And it's headed for Ian Alexander's name!


COLE SUPPORTER:  So that's one vote for Terra Cole...

DEHN SUPPORTER:  ...and one vote for Raymond Dehn.

And so on.  Or did I daydream that part?  In any case, throughout the day, only four ballots were contested.  The result of those contested ballots was that Dehn netted one additional vote.  His final margin of victory will be by twenty votes.  A slim margin, but one that has been double-checked and should stand.  While there are substantive criticisms over the final days of the primary, I believe the time has come to separate those actions from the vote in November.  We had three very qualified candidates in 59B, and each of them would serve the district well.  However slim the margin, Dehn is the DFL-endorsed candidate, and should get the support that comes with such a victory.

What we should not do, however, is forget what led us to this point.  Minneapolis Democrats for Truth deserves to be fully investigated for possible campaign violations.  Whether that will happen or not is unknown, but I strongly advocate for a full audit of their activities and those of AFSCME and MAPE in this campaign.  If those actions aren't brought to light, we should remember that Christopher Stinson and Vicki Moore were behind the smear tactic.  Moving forward, any respectable campaign should distance themselves from people who have proven themselves capable of such despicable actions.

While I still contend their actions border on or may well be illegal, there is little doubt that they were disingenuous and that the perpetrators are unwilling to stand behind their claims.  If Minneapolis Democrats for Truth cared even a little about a healthy debate--even one that included the kinds of allegations made against Alexander--they would have raised the issues much earlier, giving everyone a chance to respond, and then defended their position.  For those of us who truly care about our community, it's less about tallying up wins and losses for any particular candidate, and more about reaching a well-reasoned decision on who will best serve us as an elected official.  That's what Minneapolis Democrats for Truth took away from 59B this year, and that's why I have been so incensed.

Finally, I can't help but wonder what this campaign would have looked like if we'd had a different way of selecting our candidate.  I haven't been a big proponent of instant runoff voting for general elections, as I believe there should be some way to narrow down the field of candidates.  Voters need to be able to learn about a small field of those vying for office, and IRV in the general election does nothing to separate the viable people from the perennial also-rans.

But if we had IRV in a primary, how might that have affected the outcome?  Well just about every single Ian Alexander supporter would have likely voted for Terra Cole as their second choice in response to the mailings and phone calls that came in at the end.  The unions and other hastily-formed front groups would have anticipated such backlash and just maybe we could have had a cleaner campaign.

For now however, the dust has settled and it's time for DFLers to support Dehn in November.


  1. Former Election JudgeAugust 24, 2012 at 12:05 AM

    Jeff it's good you got involved to see how the system works, either in an official capacity or just for fun (you didn't clarify why you were there) I was an election judge for several years. I can be a very boring and a long day for a primary election. During a hot race the "poll watchers" that monitor the poling place can be a handful. While they are just to "watch", some think they are the election police and make all sorts of stupid complaints.
    If you want to do a unique civic duty sign up to be an election judge, but don't let them talk you into being the head judge, you have to deal with all the problems and make the final call. Some people can get very irate.

    1. I didn't clarify why I was there because when I was writing this post, every time I tried to do so, it felt like I was shoehorning something in. So here goes:

      I was there because after being an observer of the campaigns (by the way, if my house address were 2599 Penn instead of 2601, I'd have been a 59B voter) I thought Terra ran the campaign that was the best combination of class and competency. I further thought that the end of the primary in 59B was more than a little distasteful.

      I was there to support the candidate that, in all likelihood, I would have voted for if I was in 59B. I was also there out of sheer curiosity. I'd never seen a recount administered before, and I wanted to watch how that played out.

      I've thought about being an election judge, especially because I speak more or less fluent Spanish. If there is still time to be trained in that by November, email me at and I'll probably sign up for that civic duty.

  2. I reject this call for "unity" following a recount. Not until the voter sign-in sheets are examined in a very public way can this election be seen as legitimate. Dehn is a dirty candidate and I will never support him, not as a candidate and not as a rep.

  3. I don't understand what you expect to find in the sign-in sheets. People show up, they sign in, they vote. Election judges are right there when people sign in. What irregularities to you think happened? Do you think "imposters" voted? Do you think dead people voted? All the sign in sheets show is a signature on a line after the persons name, address, and DOB.
    Maybe you could explain to all of us why you are so gung-ho on examining these sign-in sheets in a very public way for irregularities, and what fraud you expect to uncover.

  4. If someone registered to vote at, say 2522 Penn Ave N, and then successfully voted at an address that was vacant at the time of the election, that would be an irregularity that would justify calling into question the results of the election. That kind of voter fraud, however, is exceedingly rare. I just don't see 20+ instances of that happening in such a small pool of votes.

    (And it would have to be 20+ instances of that happening AND voting for Dehn.)

    Furthermore, it's too late to formally contest the election results. So the choices are Dehn, whoever else won their party primary endorsement, or a write-in. I've racked my brain and can't imagine what would be gained by examining those sheets, much less posting them online. In fact, openly planning on posting those online before even finding out if there are irregularities seems like a bad idea.

    Going on a witch hunt with those voter rolls would probably only serve to increase the likelihood that the voter ID amendment would pass. Drumming up allegations of likely nonexistent voter fraud during a crucial fight for the voting rights of some of our most disenfranchised isn't worth the exceedingly remote possibility that you'd find what you're looking for.

  5. I'd tend to agree. Posting voter rosters would only be a witch hunt and disenfranchise voters.
    And there are plenty of odd situations where people vote and have questionable residency or addresses. I have a friend who got transferred to a Japan branch of a financial institution. He is still a US citizen and votes absentee in elections because he still has a legal address in the US. Odd, but perfectly legal because he comes home a few times a year.
    The voting system is never going to be perfect - does anyone expect there to be "election police" who will drive around and verify voters' addresses?
    Even requiring a photo ID to vote won't solve that problem. How many people are there who have not updated their driver's license after they move?
    Here's one for ya - when I was in college I moved in with my girl friend for the school year. We lived in St. Paul, but I voted in Minneapolis because that was still my legal address, I still had a bedroom at my parents house. Was that voter fraud?
    The system isn't perfect, and anyone who thinks it can or should be is an imbecile.

  6. I'd be worried johnnynorthside would use the info from the rosters to attack Dehn supporters in his blog.


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