Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Commissioner Kolar's Address To Citizens

GUEST COLUMN - by Commissioner Jack Kolars, Chair of Nicollet County Board of Commissioners.

With permission of my fellow commissioners I would like to make a few statements about the November 2, 2010 elections held in Minnesota and across the nation.

First, allow me to thank all of the county residents who cast their ballots last week. i know each and every voter cast their ballots with faith that their votes were being tabulated correctly. Let me assure you that here in Nicollet County, and I believe in every county in Minnesota, those votes were counted correctly and accurately.

Those votes elected republicans and democrats alike...a real flavor of what Minnesota is...a melting pot of ideas where candidates who become elected representatives have the opportunity to become reasonable people who can work together to accomplish the common good for our townships, our cities, our counties, our state, and our people.

I speak from some experience having served the people of Nicollet County with great pride since 1998. This is a position that I am humbled to serve in and to try to do my utmost to represent the best interests of those people who cast their votes to elect us. I know in serving with all elected officials in Nicollet County that each of us feels great humility to be chosen to serve. To the people of Nicollet County, I thank you.

I want to congratulate Commissioner Bruce Beatty on his re-election and Commissioner-elect Marie Dranttel in her successful run to replace our fellow Commissioner Judy Hanson in January. Congratulations also to our elected county officials including Attorney Mike Riley, Sheriff Dave Lange, and Recorder Kathy Conlon. congratulations to all city officials who were supported by residents through their votes last week.

As I am sure my fellow Commissioners have done, I have visited with many of our County residents since last week's elections. As Minnesota faces a $6 billion budget deficit, voters have cast their ballots for a dramatic change in government with Republicans taking control of the Minnesota House and Senate, and with Democrat Mark Dayton holding a 9,000 vote lead to become Minnesota's next Governor. (Here in Nicollet County, Mark Dayton won by 43 to 40 percent, a close race, but a race that has been determined ...by the voters.)

Of course in a race that close, Minnesota law automatically requires a recount. It will happen in an orderly fashion. That is the law in Minnesota. You might remember a recount happened two years ago in the Senate race where Senator Al Franken defeated the incumbent Norm Coleman by less than 1,000 votes. Remember what happened two years ago? It took eight months to seat Mr. Franken. This, thanks to political attorneys for the losing side, who dragged their feet. Why? Could it have been to prevent a 60 vote majority in the U.S. Senate for democrats in 2009? Would come call that a delay of justice...a delay of voter wishes? Do we think this type of political behavior encourages people to vote?

And now we are dealing with another recount. One with a much larger 9,000 vote advantage. Mark Dayton, a democrat, was elected last Tuesday, along with a whole group of republicans. With that wider 9,000 vote margin, this second Minnesota recount in two years should be much quicker to allow for all new elected state officials to take office in January. But there is some reason to believe that may not happen.

Early on Wednesday, November 3, the Nicollet County Auditor's office, along with election offices in counties across the state, received a letter from the Republican Party of Minnesota which asked, on behalf of the Tom Emmer campaign, that each county begin to seal, secure, and guard all ballots relative to the governor's election. The letter requested that each county "maintain a constant visual guard over the ballots." Now this little nugget about "guarding ballots" was passed into state statute in 1959, ostensibly to protect the integrity of elections. While it stands in state law, being updated in 1961, and again in 1986, the statute known as 209.05, in no way mentions anything about having "armed guards" watching over the votes you made.

But that's what Republican party spokesman Tony Sutton was telling media outlets last week. He said "armed guards" should watch over your votes. Armed guards! The same thing they said two years ago. He also talked about "fraud and incompetence". This is not Bolivia, Mr. Sutton. No sir, this is America, and no sir, this is Minnesota, where we trust our election judges like Bernie Bastian and Bob Wegscheid in North Mankato and thousands of other election judges who spend long hours assisting their neighbors in their important civic duty...VOTING. This is Minnesota where we trust our election offices to count every vote fairly..without regard to politics..or in this case, dare I say, greed. And by the way to be fair, the comment by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie who was quoted as saying "we in our office are going to try to have fun with this recount" was inappropriate.

The constituents I have been talking to, democrats, independents, and republicans, who have called to say having armed guards watching over their cast ballots, and hearing words like fraud and incompetence "is an insult to voters and to Minnesota's election officials." I agree. It is an insult. I am asking Mr. Sutton and Mr. Ritchie to lower the political rhetoric. I implore both political parties to bring this recount to an end by Christmas 2010 and give the new representatives, the new senators and the new governor time to begin the tough job of trying to answer Minnesota's huge $6 billion budget deficit. And to do so while serving the needs of the people who voted last Tuesday. And the needs of those people who didn't, couldn't, or wouldn't vote.

Minnesota deserves that much. Please recount quickly and give residents faith in their voting system. That is something the Minnesota voting system had earned and deserves. FAITH by voters. Not more politics. Thank you.
Jack Kolars
Nicollet County Commissioner.

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