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This Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won the Minnesota Senate Recount
     

This Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won the Minnesota Senate Recount

by Jay Weiner
 

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On July 7, 2009, Al Franken was sworn in as Minnesota's junior U.S. senator-eight months after Election Night. In the chill of November 2008, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman led by a slim 215 votes, a margin that triggered an automatic statewide recount of more than 2.9 million ballots. Minnesota's ensuing recount, and the contentious legal and public relations

Overview

On July 7, 2009, Al Franken was sworn in as Minnesota's junior U.S. senator-eight months after Election Night. In the chill of November 2008, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman led by a slim 215 votes, a margin that triggered an automatic statewide recount of more than 2.9 million ballots. Minnesota's ensuing recount, and the contentious legal and public relations battle that would play out between the Franken and Coleman lawyers and staff, simultaneously fascinated and frustrated Minnesotans and the nation-all while a filibuster-proof Senate hung in the balance.

This Is Not Florida is the behind-the-scenes saga of the largest, longest, and most expensive election recount in American history. Reporter Jay Weiner covered the entire recount process-for which he was honored with Minnesota's most prestigious journalism award-following every bizarre twist and turn and its many colorful personalities. Based on daily reporting as well as interviews with more than forty campaign staffers and other participants in the recount, This Is Not Florida dives into the motivations of key players in the drama, including the exploits of Franken's lead attorney Marc Elias, some of the mistakes made by Coleman advisers, and how the Franken team's devotion to data collection helped Franken win the recount by a mere 312 votes.

In a fascinating, blow-by-blow account of the historic recount that captivated people nationwide, Jay Weiner gets inside campaign war rooms and judges' chambers and takes the reader from the uncertainties of Election Night 2008, through the controversial State Canvassing Board and a grueling eight-week trial, to an appeal to Minnesota's Supreme Court, and finally to Al Franken's long-awaited and emotional swearing-in.

This Is Not Florida presents an important and unforgettable moment in political history that proved that it's never really over until it's actually over

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Weiner provides a lively play-by-play of a recount that fascinated the state, if not the nation." —The New Yorker
 

"Those who were pulling for Al Franken will enjoy this detailed account of how the 2008 Senate race in Minnesota and its subsequent recount contributed to the Democrats' total of 60 senators—the magic number needed to beat back a Republican filibuster. As nasty, ugly and unappealing as the battle between Franken and Norm Coleman was, watching the two sides explore every opportunity to pick up a vote or three in the post-election recount was just fascinating. No, it wasn't Florida, as the title suggests. The presidency was not at stake. And in that contest, the Democrats lost. But they won in Minnesota in the Great Recount of 2009.  And if nothing else, the moral of the story is that every vote—every vote—counts." —Ken Rudin
 

"Weiner’s lively description of the ins and outs of the recount battle will please election junkies, political scientists and political consultants." —Kirkus Reviews
 

Library Journal
Weiner (MinnPost.com) is a veteran sports journalist who was serendipitously thrust into covering the 2008 Al Franken vs. Norm Coleman election recount. He adapted brilliantly, delving fearlessly into the complex legal machinations of the recount, objectively observing the candidates as they navigated through the minutiae of Minnesota election law. Weiner's book is a significant illustration of the infrastructure of democracy: he deftly translates arcane recount procedures and legal jargon into straightforward prose. However, the main characters in Weiner's drama aren't Franken and Coleman, who are covered only peripherally, but lawyers such as Marc Elias and Fritz Knaak, whom Weiner often sketches in impressionistic tones that lend the book some welcome humanity amid the legal thicket of absentee ballot statutes and judicial opinions. VERDICT This is an exhaustive examination and an electoral law primer written at a level accessible to all readers seriously engaged in the legal and political story. Political science and electoral law specialists will want to read it. Casual readers will probably want to wait for a more accessible, character-focused narrative on this bit of recent history.—Dennis J. Seese, Jefferson-Madison Reg. Lib., Charlottesville, VA
Kirkus Reviews

Former Minneapolis Star Tribune sportswriter Weiner (StadiumGames: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles, 2000) enthusiastically chronicles the "extra-innings" contest between Republican incumbent Norman Coleman and challenger Al Franken over Minnesota's contested senate seat.

Because the margin was so small—"Coleman led by a razor-thin 215 votes out of nearly three million cast"—Minnesota election law mandated a recount.The author reprises his comprehensive, on-the-spot coverage of the eight-month battle (originally written for minnpost.com), which frequently took the form of heated arguments between lawyers. When Coleman's attorney, Roger Magnuson, contended that the Minnesota Supreme Court should "block the Canvassing Board's decision" to count newly found absentee ballots—a position similar to the one he had argued successfully in 2000 inBush v. Gore—he attempted to reference the Florida precedent, only to be stopped by Justice Paul H. Anderson, who "barked disdainfully..."[t]his is not Florida." Weiner puts sports metaphors to good use in his descriptions. "Magnuson was not used to getting jabbed in the gut or cuffed on the chin," he writes, when he received "a verbal whack from a Minnesota Supreme Court justice," who ruled against him. Within the partisan climate of politics today, the author is convincing in his assessment that the Minnesota election was a model of fairness. Minnesota reasserted the importance of bipartisan collaboration to ensure that justice was served—e.g., Secretary of State Mark Richie created an exemplary nonpartisan Canvassing Board to determine which votes were admissible. Voting machines proved to be better than 99 percent accurate, and while some absentee ballots were misplaced or cast aside, human error, not corruption, was responsible for the errors.

Though general appeal may be limited, Weiner's lively description of the ins and outs of the recount battle will please election junkies, political scientists and political consultants.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816670383
Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
Publication date:
10/05/2010
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
984,356
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Jay Weiner's coverage of the 2008 U.S. Senate recount and election contest between Norm Coleman and Al Franken earned him the 2008 Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Award, Minnesota's highest journalism honor. A sports journalist with the Minneapolis Star Tribune for twenty-eight years, he has written for the Twin Cities-based news Web site MinnPost.com since 2007 and is the author of Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles, also from the University of Minnesota Press. He lives and works in St. Paul.

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