The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 3, 2009

West grad in ballot limbo

Kandace Shuft: I just assumed, after it had been turned in, that it had counted

NORTH MANKATO — Kandace Shuft is one of the 400.

Shuft, a Mankato West graduate and University of Minnesota student, didn’t realize she was part of one of the closest — and longest — U.S. Senate races in American history. Shuft found out only when her name showed up on the order by the three-judge panel hearing the lawsuit by former Sen. Norm Coleman — and only after a reporter called to see what it’s like to play a role in what is destined to become a legendary political battle.

“I just assumed, after it had been turned in, that it had counted,” Shuft said of her absentee ballot.

It hadn’t and still hasn’t. But it is one of 400 absentee ballots the judges summoned to be examined and possibly counted next week — a number much smaller than what Coleman’s legal team wanted and a number that makes it statistically very likely that Al Franken’s 225-vote lead will hold up.

After the 400 absentee ballots are examined, many but not all will be counted, according to the panel’s ruling. It won’t actually be the ballots themselves that will be scrutinized, because they are sealed by the voter in a “secrecy envelope.” Instead, the judges will be looking at the outer envelope and — if a voter wasn’t already registered to vote — the registration card that would need to be enclosed for the ballot to be valid.

Nicollet County Auditor Bridgette Kennedy guesses that the panel will be looking to see if Shuft and another absentee voter from North Mankato named Michael George mistakenly put the registration card into the secrecy envelope. That happened elsewhere in Minnesota, and the panel determined that the mistake shouldn’t prevent a vote from being counted.

But Kennedy is all but certain that the registration cards weren’t in the secrecy envelopes, saying that her precinct election judges “give it the touch test” to see if there’s a card included with the ballot. Some will even open the secrecy ballot just to make sure.

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