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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Elections to Remember: New Hampshire, 1974

Before Franken-Coleman, there was the 1974 open-seat US Senate race in New Hampshire that pitted Republican Louis Wyman against Democrat John Durkin.

With Watergate fresh on voters’ minds, running as a Republican was not an easy task (man, this really is eerily similar). Still, New Hampshire remained a light “red” state, and the name of Wyman was a respected one in the region.

On election night, it appeared as though Wyman had won by 355 votes. Insurmountable, right?

Wrong. Durkin called for an immediate recount, won by just 10 votes, and was certified the victor.

Not to be outdone, however, Wyman demanded a recount of disputed ballots and a state commission declared him the winner, this time by just 2 votes.

Durkin petitioned the Senate after the last state recount, and after over two months–one day before the new Congress was to convene–the New Hampshire election went to committee. After much deliberation, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration was deadlocked (4-4) on how to proceed. The disputed election went to the full Senate again for consideration, then back to the Rules Committee which commissioned their own recount of the questionable ballots.

Still not able to make a decision, the Rules Committee submitted 35 (really, really) disputed ballots to the full Senate. In the end–and in true Senate fashion–they could only decide on the fate of just 1 ballot.

Finally, Louis Wyman had had enough. He asked Durkin to agree to a new election for the seat. In the meantime, the Senate declared the seat vacant and the governor appointed a temporary Senator (former Senator Norris Cotton) for the meantime.

On September 16, 1975–over 10 months after the initial election–Democrat John Durkin finally won, this time by over 27,000 votes.

The way the Senate handled this disputed election was very damaging to the Democratic party; the majority party at the time, the Democratic inability to be a reliable arbiter was a sign of things to come–in 1980, a Republican wave would sweep back into national prominence behind “the Gipper.”

Al Franken for Senate

As we continually follow a tight Senate race in Minnesota, it is important to use history as our guide. With a new, profound Democratic majority, party leadership must learn from the 1974 example and ensure that the Senate in 2008 fairly, quickly, and equitably decides any contested elections.

Norm and Laurie Coleman, Republican Election Watching Party, Bloomington, Minnesota, November 2006

And if that wouldn’t make a good movie, I don’t know what will.

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  1. Michelle

    I would like to see Congress put in place rules to standardize and conform federal elections.  For example, all these ballot disputes vary around the country based on the method that the states choose to handle the logistics of the voting process.  To me, that’s just bullshit.  And really, there is no excuse.  Congress has the power to enact legislation requiring the states to conform ballot standards on federal elections.  And the electoral college?  Don’t even get me started!

    I’m happy to watch Coleman go down in flames.  I can’t stand that guy.  He was our keynote speaker at my graduation from the U. of MN law school, and I was tempted, along with 85% of my classmates to throw stuff at him.  Coleman’s history as a pol in Minnesota — BAH!  And too bad Michele Bachmann got re-elected.  But I have digressed….

    With so many problems in our country and our elected officials the ones charged with the duty of fixing it, we should have swift, solid election processes to keep progress moving forward.  Will the Dems change it?  

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