Minnesota has never been a red state. A state that elected Humphrey, Mondale, Wellstone, Ventura, and -- almost -- Franken couldn't be. But it has been trending rightward in recent elections. This year, conservatives held out hope the one state to vote against Ronald Reagan would be an outlier again, as one of the battleground states that could go Republican.
Ah, the audacity of hope. Barack Obama won the state by about ten points, with 54 percent of the vote. And that wasn't the only -- or more surprising -- example of Minnesotans' leftward shift.
A constitutional amendment was on Minnesota's ballot this year. The "Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage and Natural Areas Amendment" would provide additional funding to preserve Minnesota's wildlife and lakes in additional to its arts and cultural heritage. Sounds nice. After all, who wants to drink dirty water or hunt in a forest with "unprotected" wildlife?
The amendment would increase the sales tax to provide $300 million in revenue for the state. The Taxpayers League of Minnesota claimed the Amendment would provide $11 billion to the state in revenue over the next 25 years. Despite the fact that several major newspapers-- including the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press -- came out against the sales tax increase as did organizations like the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Farm Bureau, almost 56 percent of Minnesotans didn't mind paying an extra $60 per year (per household) so they voted themselves a tax increase.
And they also voted for politicians who would keep the tax hikes coming. Just two cycles ago, Republicans had a majority in the state House. On Election Day last week, the DFL -- as Democrats are known in Minnesota -- came within three votes short in the House of the 90 required to override Governor Tim Pawlenty's oft-used veto pen.
There was slippage even in the conservative parts of the state. In the Sixth District, incumbent Rep. Michele Bachmann was supposed to be a shoo-in. So was House Minority Leader Erik Paulsen, running in the heavily Republican Third Congressional District. Ultimately, they both won, but the races were closer than expected. Paulsen won by eight points, Bachmann by two and the skin of her teeth.
Now all eyes are on the unresolved race between Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic joker Al Franken. On election night, it appeared Franken had lost fair and square by 725 votes. Since the race was so tight, talk of a recount began immediately. Strangely, by the next day, the gap between Coleman and Franken had decreased. Miraculously, if you'll pardon the expression, over the course of the week, Franken started picking up votes even before the recount By Monday afternoon, Coleman was ahead by a mere 206 votes.
Though the race is officially undecided or tied pending a recount, the irony of the drastic change in votes is there hasn't even been one yet. Rather, state election officials have been "finding" votes peppered across the Northern part of Minnesota for days. One township originally reported 24 votes for Al Franken. According to the Star Tribune, the number was revised to 124 -- advantage Franken -- because "exhausted county officials had accidentally entered 24 for Franken instead of 124 when the county's final votes were tallied at 5:25 Wednesday morning."
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is a zealous partisan Democrat. Conservative organizations and elected officials in Minnesota don't trust his ability to execute a clean recount because of his relationship with ACORN, as reported by TAS here.
Scholar John Lott goes so far as to say Minnesota is "Ripe for Election Fraud": "To many, it just seems like too much of a coincidence that Minnesota's one tight race just happens to be the race with the most 'corrected' votes by far. But the real travesty will be to start letting election officials divine voter's intent."
Judging from the other election results, however, more liberal politicians and higher taxes do seem to be the Minnesota voters' intent. A few extra votes for Franken here and there, Democrats must reason, is just icing on the cake.