Saturday, December 13, 2008

Count On Me, Counting You

With yesterday's decision to actually count a number of absentee ballots in Minnesota favoring Al Franken, incumbent Senator Norm Coleman is crying foul and demanding state Supreme Court intervention, stat.
DFLer Al Franken's campaign scored significant victories in the U.S. Senate recount Friday, as the state Canvassing Board approved the use of Election Day results for 133 Minneapolis ballots that can't be found and also recommended that counties sort and count absentee ballots that were mistakenly rejected.

But the five-member board revealed some fissures. That came when its two Supreme Court justices put the brakes on the apparent hopes of its two district judges to declare in advance that the board would accept the new results that include the previously rejected absentee votes.

The board chose instead to wait until those votes come in before deciding whether to accept them.

Coleman campaign officials planned to file a request today for an order from the state Supreme Court requiring counties to follow consistent standards for counting their rejected absentee ballots. They said they hoped to have a decision by early next week.

"This is the kind of chaos the board has walked us into that we are trying to avoid," said Coleman attorney Tony Trimble.

Marc Elias, Franken's lead recount attorney, called the Coleman petition "an extraordinary action to try and halt this count and re-disenfranchise these voters. ... This is all just smoke and mirrors. They are hoping to run out the clock, delay the counting of these ballots."

Earlier this week, more than half the state's counties and larger cities began to separate out wrongly rejected absentee ballots from those legitimately turned back under state law. Based on the numbers tallied so far by 49 counties and cities, officials estimated that there may be as many as 1,600 absentee ballots that should have been counted but were mistakenly excluded.

The board decision on the Minneapolis ballots means that Franken trails Republican Sen. Norm Coleman by 192 votes. Had the board accepted Coleman's argument that only the ballots that were recounted be accepted, his lead would be 238 votes.

The Franken campaign was plainly delighted with the outcome. The campaign believes he stands to gain from counting improperly rejected absentee ballots.

"It was a good day for the Franken campaign. It was a good day for all the voters of Minnesota who were concerned that their lawful ballots may not be counted," said Elias.

Those 1,600 votes will almost certainly give Franken the win, and Coleman knows it. Either way, I see this issue going before SCOTUS in the next couple of weeks. Coleman will not accept a result where he loses as a sitting US Senator, and Franken will certainly challenge SCOTUS should the Minnesota Supreme Court overturn the state election board.

Would a precedent set by SCOTUS stemming from a challenge based on a "unified standard" be interpreted by lawmakers as a national standard on voting procedures? Possibly, but this is the type of case SCOTUS has been loathe to take up, claiming states can and should run their own elections.

But...this is a federal office. I'm not a legal scholar by any means, but the ramifications of this could be far-reaching. This won't be the last close election...and let's not forget Bush v. Gore either. The court had no problem deciding our President in 2000.

Keep an eye on this case. It could go a lot further than just the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

How Bad Would Auto Bankruptcies Be?

Just how bad would it get it GM and/or Chrysler declared bankruptcy as the GOP wants them to do? The estimates aren't pretty at all.
Industry experts and economists say the automakers would close plants, fire tens of thousands of workers and cut production. That would cause many of their suppliers to collapse, triggering more job losses, straining the cities and states where the car and parts companies operate, as well as federal safety-net programs.

It would also deliver another psychological blow to consumers and a major shock to Main Street following the crises on Wall Street.

“The auto industry is a key element in the economy,” said Bob Schnorbus, chief economist at J.D. Power & Associates in Troy, Michigan. “Anything that disrupts it is going to slow the economy down more than we have already seen.”

Economists say it’s difficult to estimate the full impact, given the large number of possible scenarios. The outcome hinges on which companies filed for bankruptcy and when, and whether they would be able to continue building cars and trucks while in reorganization -- assuming they don’t go into liquidation.

“It would be unprecedented,” says Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut. “So it’s hard to say exactly what would happen.”

In other words a bad situation would get significantly worse at minimum. How quickly would that happen after a filing?
Still, a GM or Chrysler bankruptcy “would be the start of a cascade of failures,” says Dennis Virag, president of Automotive Consulting Group in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The economy will be in chaos within weeks.”
That quickly.

And it won't be just obvious auto jobs that are lost, but millions of non-auto jobs too, especially in communities where auto plants are a primary employer.

If there were just a 50 percent contraction in the auto industry, nearly 2.5 million jobs would be lost in the first year, resulting in $125 billion less in personal income before a partial rebound in later years, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. State and federal coffers would lose $50 billion from lost tax dollars, the center said.

"We believe the economy is in such a weakened state right now that adding another possible loss of one million jobs is just something our economy cannot sustain at the moment," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday.

Experts say it's not just the obvious — car companies, suppliers and dealers — who'll be affected. Failure of these companies could affect national security, television studios and even sports teams.

"If you knock out these suppliers who are also providing powertrains and axles to the military, what are you supposed to do then?" former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Friday in a phone interview.

The economy is so weak right now that there's no slack to absorb the blow. The system is already stretched to breaking, especially in Big Three auto plant states like Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.

GM is already in talks this weekend with the White House and the Treasury department to try to get something going, so we'll see what happens.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition

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