- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2002

The White House yesterday insisted that Vice President Richard B. Cheney was not snubbed when the family of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone declined his offer to attend last night's memorial service.
Instead, the family begged off because of the logistical problems that would be created by the vice president's intensive security protocols, said a senior administration official.
"The family was honored and grateful, but didn't want the circus," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I completely believe that."
Similar security protocols were in place for former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, both of whom were invited by the family, and the memorial service became a raucous rally for Democrats. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa took off his jacket and delivered a stem-winding campaign speech. Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, the Republican leader, was lustily booed.
Mr. Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat who was running for re-election in a tight race, died Friday in a plane crash that also killed his wife, daughter and five other persons.
"The family was appreciative of the offer by the vice president to attend," insisted White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who declined to elaborate on the family's communications with the administration.
"There will be a time for politics," he said. "Today is not the day. Today is a day to remember Senator Wellstone."
Another White House official was more pointed.
"What you've got here are a few Democrats right here in Washington trying to stir it up for their own partisan political purposes," the official said. "I don't think it has anything to do with the family, and it certainly doesn't have anything to do with us over here.
"Like most of things of this nature, it's not the people who are supposedly being pitted against each other," the official added. "It's third parties with selfish interests."
Substituting for Mr. Cheney at the memorial service was Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
Despite their demands for a period of mourning, Democratic operatives are filing legal challenges to next week's Minnesota election.
The Democratic Farmers Labor Party of Minnesota yesterday filed a lawsuit against Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer for ruling that absentee voters who had mailed in ballots for Mr. Wellstone must appear at the polls Tuesday if they wanted to vote instead for his Democratic replacement.
That decision has been outlined and explained by Mrs. Kiffmeyer, a Republican, and state Attorney General Mike Hatch, a Democrat. The chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed yesterday to Democratic demands for an expedited hearing on the case, which was scheduled for tomorrow.
"The laws in Minnesota are somewhat strict," said Tovah Ravitz-Meehan, communications director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Obviously, the reason people ask for absentee ballots is because they have to be out of town or out of the country and secondly, for whatever physical reason, they can't get to the polls."
Mrs. Kiffmeyer's office has ruled that "state law does not allow" new ballots to be mailed to absentee voters. Any replacement ballot would not list a new Democratic candidate because former Vice President Walter F. Mondale has not formally thrown his hat into the ring.
Mr. Mondale is likely to appear before Democratic leaders in Minnesota tonight to begin his campaign, party officials told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The officials said Mr. Mondale also planned the public rally for tomorrow.
The race, in which Mr. Wellstone had a slight lead in the latest polls, is seen as critical in control of the Senate, which Democrats now control by a single seat.
If and when Mr. Mondale enters the race, voters who have cast absentee ballots for Mr. Wellstone either may go to the polls on Election Day or may visit their county auditor's office to fill out a new ballot. Absentee voters who do not choose a new Senate candidate by Tuesday still will have their ballots counted for other races.
"They told us we're 'out of luck.' It's true we were out of luck last Friday when Senator Wellstone was killed," said Democratic Party attorney Alan Weinblatt. "Why should we be out of luck on a continuing basis?"
More than 90,000 Minnesotans voted absentee in the 1998 midterm elections.
"I will not be disenfranchised," one Democratic election judge told the Associated Press. "This ain't Florida."
The filing of a lawsuit recalled the Florida recount wars of the 2000 election. That debacle led to the Help America Vote Act, which President Bush signed into law yesterday.
"Every registered voter deserves to have confidence that the system is fair and elections are honest, that every vote is recorded and that the rules are consistently applied," Mr. Bush said at a bipartisan ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. "The legislation that I sign today will add to the nation's confidence."
Yesterday marked the third time in less than two years that Democrats had sought to sidestep election laws by taking their cases to state supreme courts. Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court overruled a state law that barred the substitution of one candidate for another within 51 days of an election.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to entertain an appeal on the case, clearing the way for former Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg to replace fellow Democrat Robert G. Torricelli, whose support was fading. By contrast, the U.S. Supreme Court twice overruled the Florida Supreme Court in the 2000 post-election struggle.
The Help America Vote Act, which takes effect next year, will require first-time voters who register by mail to provide identification when they go to the polls. If a question about credentials is raised, the new law allows voters to fill out provisional ballots, which can be counted later if the credentials are verified.

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