Politics
Last update: December 14, 2004 at 7:18 AM

Vote for Edwards instead of Kerry shocks Minnesota electors

Dane Smith,  Star Tribune
December 14, 2004 ELECTORAL1214

Voting irregularities were few in Minnesota this year -- until it really counted.

Defeated Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry likely is going to get one less electoral vote nationally than he should have -- 251 instead of 252 -- because of an apparent mistake Monday by one of Minnesota's 10 DFL electors.

One of the 10 handwritten ballots cast for president carried the name of vice presidential candidate John Edwards (actually spelled "Ewards" on the ballot) rather than Kerry.

"I was shocked ... this will go in the history books," said Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who presided over a ceremony that normally is uneventful.

Kiffmeyer said she was unaware of any other such apparent mistake in Minnesota, although there have been cases in other states of "faithless electors" casting ballots for candidates other than those to which they were committed.

Electoral voting in Minnesota
Electoral voting in Minnesota
Richard Sennott
Star Tribune

There was stunned silence after the announcement that Edwards had gotten a vote for president, but none of the 10 electors volunteered that they voted for Edwards as a protest, nor did anyone step forward to admit an error.

"It was perhaps a senior moment," said elector Michael Meuers, 60, a Bemidji marketing consultant for a health care firm, the second-youngest member of the Minnesota delegation to the Electoral College.

Meuers said he was certain that the Edwards ballot wasn't his, but he noted that "both the candidates were named John, and the ballots looked pretty much alike."

This year's DFL Party electors were typical -- senior party activists typically chosen for their long years of service. They ranged in age from 52 to 83.

"These are not paid political professionals," said Bill Amberg, the DFL Party's communications director. "It was clear that everybody thought they had voted for Kerry, and all 10 of these folks were for Kerry during the pre-nomination period. There is no sign of protest."

Kiffmeyer, a Republican and the state's chief election official, said that there apparently is nothing that can be done once the secret ballots are cast.

"It's not that important, since we're not at a 269-to-269 tie in the electoral vote," said DFL Party Chair Mike Erlandson. "This isn't the biggest story in America today. It's the recount in Ohio [the crucial battleground state that helped carry the nation for President Bush] and the questions that so many people have over voting machines."

Minnesota's electors typically cast their votes in the Governor's Reception Room at the State Capitol, and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Kiffmeyer appeared with them in the morning to thank them for their services.

Several of them acknowledged that their duty was perhaps an archaic formality but that it was nevertheless a significant and solemn step in the process.

"It's the symbolism of it, the fact that I am now representing the entire 4th Congressional District and the will of its majority," said elector Matthew Little of Maplewood, an 83-year-old activist and a longtime Minnesota civil rights leader.

Little, born and reared in North Carolina, came to Minnesota in 1948, the year Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey, then running for the U.S. Senate, delivered a historic civil rights speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Little later became the top official of the Minnesota NAACP.

Although the electors expressed regret that Kerry did not win nationally, most of them also said they took pleasure in casting the votes that keep Minnesota in the Democratic column for the eighth straight presidential election, the longest Democratic streak of any state.

Dane Smith is at rdsmith@startribune.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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