Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The 19-Vote Victory

Post and stock photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

In the game of cribbage, nineteen points is an impossible score.  When a player gets a worthless hand with zero points, the running joke among experts and novices alike is that they pegged nineteen points.  So when Raymond Dehn led Terra Cole by nineteen votes after a series of last-minute dirty campaign tricks, the card player in me immediately compared his margin to that point total in cribbage.

I have been so disgusted by what I have seen over the past week that I have gone so far as to call the victory "illegitimate."  That word was chosen carefully, as there is no way that I could more strongly articulate my distaste for the final days of the campaign in 59B.  But if all I wanted to do was complain about who won, or hurl insults across the political aisle, then frankly it would be best for me and others like me to be silent.  There will come a time--soon--where it will be appropriate for everyone to set aside differences and accept whatever the results of this election are.  That time has not yet arrived.

Before we get there, I believe several things need to happen.  First off...

...We should have a recount.  The 19-vote margin of victory amounts to a 0.8% win for Dehn, and the threshold for an automatic recount is 0.5%.  Even so, this is too close and too important to allow such a small margin to go unverified.  If the will of the community--however that will was determined and however closely divided it was--is that Mr. Dehn be our next Representative, we need to be absolutely sure.

Second, Minneapolis Democrats for Truth should be fully investigated and audited.  Mr. Stinson, their treasurer, claims that they have not violated any campaign finance disclosure rules or laws.  I do not find that claim to be credible.  That organization came into existence on August 7, 2012.  Within days, people in 59B received two mailings that were professionally done and on very high-quality cardstock.  Also within that time frame, voters received live phone calls--not robocalls, but live ones--that furthered the gutterball tactics of the postcards.

These actions had to have significant financial costs (or value if they were donated).  Yet there are no reports of Minneapolis Democrats for Truth showing donations of $1,000 or more as required by law.  It is possible that they received a series of smaller donations.  But given the quick turnaround time from inception to action that appears to be highly coordinated and rather expensive, I do not find that possibility to be plausible.  Mr. Stinson and Ms. Moore are free to comment here or contact me and I will continue to publish their claims.  I do not expect to be swayed from my position without direct evidence to the contrary.

Additionally, there were repeated claims from both Cole and Alexander supporters that Keith Ellison's campaign volunteers were telling or at least heavily implying that Dehn was endorsed by the DFL.  By all means, Keith should endorse the candidate he thinks is best qualified, and should encourage his campaign to heartily support that candidate out on the doors and on the phones.  The first time I heard of confusion over whether Dehn was DFL-endorsed, I attributed it to the difficulty of quickly delivering a bulky doorknocking pitch.  It can't be easy to clearly distinguish between Ellison-endorsed and DFL-endorsed, and maybe it was hard for inexperienced volunteers to switch gears.

When those claims continued over time and throughout the district, it became harder to believe that the actions were unintentional.  Everyone who received such a questionable phone call or home visit should report what happened so that we have a clear picture of how the campaign was conducted.

Finally, Dehn himself has repudiated the low tricks employed at the penultimate hour.  I suppose that's better than flaunting unethical behavior, but such a repudiation is to be expected in cases like this.  I have spoken with several people who have deep experience with political campaign work.  I asked each of them the following question:  Given the small size of the election in 59B, how plausible is it that neither Raymond Dehn nor his campaign was aware of or coordinated with the actions of Minneapolis Democrats for Truth? 

Each person with experienced campaign work responded that it was not plausible at all.

For the sake of setting aside any differences and moving forward, I'd like to believe there was no coordination between these two.  I'd like to be able to say this election was won, if not cleanly then at least fair and square.  But until there is a recount and a full accounting of Minneapolis Democrats for Truth, those nineteen votes won't be worth a whole lot.


  1. The voter sign-in sheets for 59B need to be posted online in PDF form, so the people of the district can collectively scrutinize them for anything amiss.

    What is being done to get these documents ASAP?

  2. Former Election JudgeAugust 16, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    The lists of registered voters, and their voting history is available for the Secretary of State. These lists are frequently purchased by campaigns for the purpose of campaign mailings and callings.
    Minnesota statute allows for a very limited use of these lists strictly for political and election activities. That does not include publishing the lists online or in any blog.
    " No individual who inspects the public information list or who acquires a list of registered voters prepared from the public information list may use any information contained in the list for purposes unrelated to elections, political activities, or law enforcement." Violation is a Gross misdemeanor.
    Election judges have the task of scrutinizing voter sign-in logs for irregularities. They are not public information.


  3. Yeah, I think that scrutinizing the lists online to make sure the election was on the up and up is "political activity."

    Get me the lists and I'll worry about the WHATEVER.

    The noise I'm seeing here sounds like the noise I heard when I started publishing the specific street addresses of Level Three Sex Offenders on my blog and guess what? Nothing happened to me because of publishing THOSE, either.


  4. @Former Election Judge, the link you posted doesn't work. Could you try it again?

    @John, I'm inclined to believe FEJ here in that getting you the lists isn't something that can be done. I want as much transparency as possible here, but even in our last two recounts that kind of info didn't seem to leak out.

  5. Former Election JudgeAugust 17, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    There is no law that prohibits publishing the address of sex offenders. There IS a statute that prohibits the unauthorized use of voter lists, and that would include publishing the data in the Johnny Northside blog.
    No one really cares about sex offenders, but publish the names of voters without authorization, and I guarantee something will happen. G-u-a-r-a-n-t-e-e-d

  6. Perhaps before Johnny Northside starts stirring up trouble and creating bad feelings he should consult with the campaign he supports and see if they would like him to continue with his crusade.
    While Johnny Northside may not care about the repercussions of his actions, his behaviors have a reputation for coming back to bite him in the ass. Unfortunately, as is often the case, blood from those bites get spilled on others causing them to have to "wash his blood off".
    Maybe the best thing Johnny Northside can do is to settle down and act like a mature adult, and let the people who have been selected to work on the campaign fight their battle.
    A lot of people have worked very hard for their candidates, unlike Johnny Northside who has not been around for the past year, and has spent the last few months traveling around the country.
    The courteous, respectable, and responsible thing for Johnny to do would be for him to take care of himself, solve his own problems, and let those who are directly involved in the campaign handle any formal grievances.
    Level heads prevail, and JNS is never level headed.

  7. To the guy showing us all how to spell "guaranteed," bring it.

    In regard to the candidates, the campaign, what have you, I have a stake in who represents me and whether the election was fair. Let the chips fall where they will. I sure haven't heard from any campaigns telling me, "Oh, no, please, stop asking for these lists."

    Which reminds me. I really want these lists.


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