Witness

/ 5 January 2009

Today I was privileged to witness a small bit of history at the Minnesota State Office Building. I was at the State Capitol today to be part of a rally for the Minnesota Health Plan and then went over to the State Office Building to sit down with my representative to talk health care for a few minutes. As I walked into the building I noticed the media trucks, and then remembered: the recount.

As it turns out, my work was done just a bit before our Secretary of State was due to preside over the final Canvassing Board meeting of our US Senate recount. I walked over to room 10 and sat down to wait. When the appointed hour arrived Mark Ritchie entered the room with the four judges who have been members of the Canvassing Board. We all stood as they entered, me a bit self-consciously. It felt odd to stand for these people.

Then they got down to their business.

canvassingboard.png

This board, and the staff of the Secretary of State’s office, have done such a terrific service for Minnesota. Their deliberations have been so open, their judgements so unanimous, their care so evident, that I have a tremendous degree of faith in their work. The kind of faith that has been missing in other recounts around the country over the past few years. I was amazed anew at the openness of our government today. I walked in off the street, never passed a guard, a metal detector, or anyone who made me feel unwelcome. As I entered the meeting room I felt I had as much right to be there as anyone else. I didn’t have to make an appointment: my government was just open to my own witness and inspection.

They got the main business over within five minutes. By 2:35 they had certified Al Franken the winner of the recount. Now we wait seven days for any Colman court challenge (all but sure to arrive). After the certificate was signed, the bi-partisan board shared a few words about the process. Their heartfelt respect for the process and the people who helped carry it out was clear. Ritchie noted that the foundation for the recount had been set 150 years ago at the founding of the state. We inherit all the good work of earlier public servants and we can contribute new refinements to the process in return.

It was all done within 15 minutes. I have to say, by the time the meeting adjourned I was glad we’d stood for these people when they entered the room. They deserve every ounce of our respect for the hard job they and their staff have done for us. They showed us what the rule of law and a healthy respect for democratic process can do. This was government as I want to see it: open, accessible, accountable, practical, successful. Bravo!

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