POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Absentee ballots a focus after 2008 voteThe 20,000 or so Minnesotans voting via absentee ballots may seem insignificant, but given the results of the 2008 U.S. Senate race, which ended little more than a year ago after an extended battle over absentee ballots, they take on new importance this year.
By: Don Davis, E/P State Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL -- The 20,000 or so Minnesotans voting via absentee ballots may seem insignificant, but given the results of the 2008 U.S. Senate race, which ended little more than a year ago after an extended battle over absentee ballots, they take on new importance this year.
The Aug. 10 primary election is expected to have relatively few voters, so in a tight race, like expected in the three-way Democratic governor contest, absentee votes could, again, become vital.
Absentee voters need to pay more attention this year because procedures have changed a bit. A court ruling after the 2008 Coleman-Franken Senate race and law changes have made the application look different.
"It is very important to carefully read the instructions and follow the instructions completely so all ballots can be counted," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.
One court-required change is that the voter must fill out everything on the absentee ballot, application and accompanying envelope. In the past, election workers sometimes did some of that.
Overall, the absentee voting process has been simplified.
State law allows Minnesotans to vote absentee by mail or in person if they will be out of their precincts on election day, if they are sick, if they are an election judge in another precinct or if their religious discipline does not allow them to vote that day.
County auditors' offices accept absentee votes during regular business hours on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, and until 5 p.m. the day before the election.
Auditors' offices can help people vote absentee by mail.
Dick Franson has been on the Minnesota ballot 25 times, winning only his 1962 election to the Minneapolis City Council.
He proudly says no one in the state, even names like Walter Mondale and Harold Stassen, come near equaling him. So, he said the other day, that makes him the godfather of Minnesota politics.
This year Franson is running in the DFL primary to oust incumbent Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. He has run for a variety of statewide offices, seldom receiving more than a smattering of votes.
As a retired Army sergeant, Franson's main campaign is advertising in military publications and handing out those ads to the Capitol press corps.
The Minnesota Independence Party is trying to distance itself from one of its members who is running for governor and fought with his ex-wife last year.
Rob Hahn said he made a mistake when he threatened his ex-wife.
That was not enough for party Chairman Jack Uldrich, who felt it necessary to remind Minnesotans that the party overwhelmingly endorsed Tom Horner, not Hahn.
"The Independence Party of Minnesota takes accusations of domestic violence very seriously," wrote Uldrich, whose father also is running for governor. "Some in the public may be under the false impression that the Independence Party condones either Rob Hahn's actions or his candidacy for governor. We do not."
The court granted Hahn's ex-wife a restraining order against the candidate.
Hahn called the fight a one-time incident.
Kennedy opens firm
Former congressman and 2006 U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kennedy has opened his own business.
And beginning in late August he plans what he calls an around-the-world tour in 21 days, with speaking engagements at most of his stops.
Kennedy opened Chartwell Strategic Advisors in his hometown of Watertown, Minn. In a letter to potential clients, he says: "It will combine the insights I have gained from my 25 years in business, Congressional service and global engagement to bring new and valuable perspectives to my clients.
"My activities through Chartwell will include providing strategic advice in addition to public speaking at business conferences, executive education programs and public affairs forums. I am also exploring service on a corporate board or two."
Kennedy lost to Amy Klobuchar in the 2006 election. Before that, he served three terms in the U.S. House.
FarmFest hosts forums
FarmFest this year takes on a new type of political importance.
The Tuesday-through-Thursday all-things-farm show near Redwood Falls, Minn., plays a role every election year, usually as the first debate among governor and congressional candidates. This year, however, it becomes one of the final candidate gathering before the primary election.
FarmFest political activity begins Tuesday morning when U.S. House candidates handle questions.
The six top governor candidates will face off at a Wednesday morning forum.
On Thursday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty delivers his farewell FarmFest address as he looks toward leaving office in January. Before his keynote speech, a panel will gather to give farm advice to the next governor.