Archive for the ‘Minnesota Politics’ Category

I’m sure Franken’s campaign would disagree with me on this but I’d say his campaign faces a stiff, uphill battle. According to this Strib article, it’ll take a miracle to win the recount:

To win his case before the state Canvassing Board, Franken must prevail on more than 6 percent of his challenges of Coleman votes even if Coleman fails to succeed on any of his challenges, a Star Tribune analysis shows.

If the outcome of past election disputes provides a clue, Franken will have a hard time reversing enough votes to win, said one veteran elections official who has been involved in the Senate recount.

“Based upon the kinds of challenges I’ve been looking at in the last two weeks, I think that’s just not going to happen,” said Joe Mansky, Ramsey County elections manager.

The likelihood of Sen. Coleman not winning any challenges is practically nonexistent. I also think that the ballots in the infamous fifth pile will be tiny. (Minnesota election law contains 4 provisions for rejecting absentee ballots.) The reason I think that is because they’re starting with 12,000 rejected absentee ballots, which sounds like alot but it isn’t.

Of those 12,000 rejected absentee ballots, it’s my opinion that the vast majority will be rejected for valid reasons. That’s my opinion because the people dealing with absentee ballots are professionals. I’ll be surprised if there’s 1,000 absentee ballots that were improperly rejected. I wouldn’t be surprised if that number was more like 250-500. That’s before you start considering which candidate got more votes.

Each step outlined above diminishes Franken’s margin for error.

If that isn’t daunting enough, consider that that’s before Scott County, one of the reddest counties in Minnesota, does its recount. It’s also important to remember that Sen. Coleman’s lead is currently at 282.

Add up those hurdles and it isn’t easy to see Franken’s path to victory.

Mr. Mansky agrees with me on this point:

“Franken’s best [and perhaps his only] chance will be in court, not with the recount,” Mansky said.

That’s what I opined in this post.

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I was reading this article in the Bemidji Pioneer when I got stopped dead in my tracks. Here’s what stopped me:

“The main thing is we can look at the budget as just solving the math problem, making it back to zero and equaling it out,” she said. “But the real challenge is going to be investing in the sorts of areas that we need to make Minnesota stronger in the next 10 years.”

TRANSLATION: This budget deficit is restricting our ability to repay our political allies spend like spendaholics.

When the budget deficit is released this Thursday, it’ll likely show a deficit north of $4 billion. In that setting, one would think that austerity would be the order of the day. Ms. Kelliher has just said that they want to increase spending.

Don’t buy into the notion that she’s just talking about ensuring adequate funding of education. That isn’t what she’s talking about here. She’s talking about adding new programs into the mix. That means increasing taxes.

This deficit would’ve been considerably bigger if the House GOP hadn’t sustained Gov. Pawlenty’s vetoes in 2007. Had the DFL gotten their way, spending for that budget period would’ve increased by 17 percent instead of the 9 percent that got signed into law. That’s because the DFL didn’t want to hear the word prioritize.

Steve Gottwalt has been a constant advocate for prioritizing spending. That mindset will be especially important this year because we’ll need to spend money wisely.

Creating a business-friendly climate is the biggest thing that’ll make Minnesota stronger over the next decade. Raising taxes will make things infinitely worse. Think Jennifer Granholm’s Michigan. Cutting taxes will give businesses an incentive to not leave the state. Not only that but it’ll give them the incentive they need to actually invest in their businesses.

There’s an LTE in this morning’s St. Cloud Times dealing with the issue of clean energy. This alarming statement is the most appalling part of the LTE:

In rebuilding our economy Congress and President-elect Barack Obama should use the opportunity to shift from a pollution-based economy to a 100 percent clean energy economy.

Eliminating fossil fuels shouldn’t be our goal but let’s play devil’s advocate and say that’s our goal. Shouldn’t natural gas, which is an extremely clean form of energy, be part of the solution? Theoretically, companies would have to work on the technology while others would manufacture that type of vehicle.

Companies won’t flock to Minnesota to do either of those things because Minnesota’s business climate is terrible. Companies aren’t expanding as it is. Why would they want to move here?

Another thing that’s imperative is that we eliminate plans to ‘reform’ health care by passing more mandates or giving state government more control of it. Giving people the incentive to invest in HSAs, wellness programs and their own custom-designed insurance plans will have a sibstantially greater impact on improving people’s health than anything that the DFL-dominated legislature will offer.

This next part is telling about how screwed up the DFL’s priorities are:

The real challenge in a budget deficit, Kelliher said, “is to make sure you’re actually paying attention to the things that are going to make you stronger over time. I actually have a little hope that maybe we can all get together and determine what some of those long-term goals are.”

One area of investment would be in early childhood education, she said, “getting all 5-year-olds ready for kindergarten. That would be a good goal agree to all together and start to drive some decision-making toward that.”

Why isn’t creating a business-friendly climate important to the DFL? What good are well-educated children if there aren’t Minnesota jobs waiting for them? This is typical DFL thinking. They think that a public works-based economic system is a great thing. The problem with that theory is that that’s the system that’s gotten us in trouble every couple of years.

Relying on a public works-oriented model is what’s created the feast-then-famine swings in budget deficits/surpluses. Based on what’s happened the last 3 budget cycles, it appears that the DFL isn’t interested in an entrepreneur-based economic model. As long as we aren’t cutting taxes, companies don’t have an incentive to create the next Microsoft here in Minnesota.

Frankly, I’m amazed that more businesses haven’t moved across the border into South Dakota. If we don’t stop increasing taxes on small businesses, the exodus from Minnesota will devastate Minnesota’s economy. Again, I’ll just point to Michigan, which was “in a one state recession” for most of the Bush administration.

Just ask yourself if that’s the type of state you want to live in. If it isn’t, then you need to start pushing back against the DFL’s disastrous economic policies.

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In this morning’s Strib, Kevin Duchshere reports that Team Franken has started shifting its attention towards absentee ballots that were rejected. I suspect that they’ve done this because they understand that they won’t catch Sen. Coleman in the hand recount phase of the process. Here’s what Mr. Duchshere is reporting:

Democrat Al Franken’s campaign last week argued before the Canvassing Board that improperly rejected absentee ballots should be identified and counted and that the board has the authority to do it. The campaign of Republican Sen. Norm Coleman argues that it’s a matter to be decided by the courts.

Team Franken’s assertion that the Canvassing Board has the authority to rule on rejected absentee ballots isn’t an opinion shared by Ken Raschke:

Wrote Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Raschke Jr.: “Courts that have reviewed this issue have opined that rejected absentee or provisional ballots are not cast in an election.” Improperly rejected absentee ballots can be challenged in court, he wrote.

early in the process, Politics In Minnesota (PIM) posted the PDF of Mr. Raschke’s opinion. Here’s the unabridged version of Raschke’s statement:

The purpose and scope of an administrative recount pursuant to Minn. Stat. 204C.35, subd. 3 (2008) is as follows:

Scope of Recount. A recount conducted as provided in this section is limited in scope to the determination of the number of votes validly cast for the office to be recounted. Only the ballots cast in the election and the summary statements certified by election judges may be considered in the recount process.

“Courts that have reviewed this issue have opined that rejected absentee or provisional ballots are not cast in an election.”

John Fund, the foremost authority on election law in American journalism, cites a troubling bit of history here:

Democrats with experience from the Washington recount are now advising Mr. Franken. Paul Berendt, a former chair of the Washington Democratic Party, was in Minneapolis this month. “What I bring to this effort,” he told Oregon Public Radio from the Minneapolis recount office, “is that I understand every single step of this recount process and the things that you need to look for in order to make sure that every vote is counted.”

If the strategy of adding previously rejected ballots to the Minnesota Senate recount is successful, a final outcome could be months away. In 1975, the U.S. Senate refused to accept New Hampshire’s certification that Republican Louis Wyman had won by two votes. The seat was vacant for seven months, with the Senate debate spanning 100 hours and six unsuccessful attempts to break a filibuster and vote on who should be seated. The impasse ended only when a special election was agreed to, which was won by Democrat John Durkin.

If Harry Reid wants to leave Norm’s seat open after Sen. Coleman won the original vote, the machine recount and the manual recount, he’ll have a huge fight on his hands. I predict that the GOP will pressure Democrats, telling them that they’ll face one campaign commercial after another stating that they ignored the will of Minnesota’s voters by ignoring the properly cast votes of millions of Minnesota voters.

If Democrats tried that, the GOP would be justified in saying that the Democratic Party is willing to ignore We The People in order to win a temporary victory. The NRSC most effective campaign would highlight the Democrats’ culture of corruption.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

The Coleman campaign has decided it’s time for both sides to put their cards on the table. They’ve done this through this fax from Coleman for Senate Senior Counsel Fritz Knaak to the Franken campaign:

ST. PAUL – The following was faxed to the Franken Campaign by Coleman for Senate Senior Counsel Fritz Knaak this evening:

“It has become apparent that both campaigns are engaged in a mounting game of ballot challenging that serves no useful purpose. This is not the way the recount process was intended to work, and we are trying the patience and goodwill of election officials and volunteers throughout the state. While the Franken Campaign began this morning challenging 25 ballots in one Sherburne County precinct, the vast majority without merit, it’s obvious that our campaign volunteers felt the need to match these growing and unnecessary challenges throughout the day. This is an artificial game which has virtually no bearing on the outcome of this recount as we know that the vast majority of these challenges will be rejected before we even get to the Canvassing Board on December 16th. With that in mind, in the spirit of the Holidays, and to give respect to this process that it deserves, we ask you to join us tomorrow morning in standing down in the game of ballot challenge one upsmanship.”

I’ve posted about this here and here. Everyone who’s paid attention knew that this was a PR game initiated by Franken. The PR game started shifting away from Franken’s campaign when Stearns County Auditor Randy Schreifels felt compelled to issue this press release:

Date: November 24, 2008
Contact: Randy Schreifels, County Auditor-Treasurer, 320-656-3901

U.S. Senate Race Recount Facing More Challenges

The process is slowing down in Stearns County’s hand recount of the U.S. Senate race.

Stearns County election officials are getting many more frivolous challenges, mainly starting with one challenger from the Al Franken campaign. When this happens, the Norm Coleman campaign will counter with another frivolous challenge.

By 10:00 this morning, there have already been seven ballots challenged, where voter intent is very clear. On Friday, there were 15 challenges, and most of them were frivolous as well. Compare that to just 8 challenges the entire first day and only 3 challenges the second day.

This morning, for example, a ballot was challenged because the oval wasn’t completely blackened, although the majority of it was filled in. Another ballot was challenged because there was a mark, or a small line, somewhere else on the ballot, not even near the U.S. Senate race.

Stearns County officials were hoping to wrap up the recount today, but that goal might now be in jeopardy. At the end of the day on Friday, Stearns County had approximately just 16,000 ballots left to recount, out of 79,000 total ballots, and officials were hoping to finish those today. But with the extra challenges, the process could extend into Tuesday.

Legally, Stearns County has until December 5th to complete the recount.

For those who want to watch the recount, but can’t make it into the Administration Center, they can view it live on Stearns County’s website at www.co.stearns.mn.us from 8:00–4:00 each day.

Schreifels justified his ire in an interview with me, saying that Franken’s frivolous challenges were artificially extending the recount, which means that his personnel are allocated to the recount longer than if Team Franken had just played it straight.

Captain Ed posted this about the recount:

The canvassing board will provide the real focus for this recount. We’re fortunate to have four widely-respected jurists on this panel who will not countenance any shenanigans, even with the strongly partisan Mark Ritchie as a statutory member as Secretary of State.

Barring the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that clearly stated election law be ignored, Team Franken must notice that their chances of winning are shrinking daily.

One thing that should be pointed out about this that hasn’t received enough coverage is that Minnesota’s election laws are exceptionally clear and Minnesota’s ballots are the best in the nation. Even the recount procedures are well-designed.

TRANSLATION: The ballots will determine the outcome, not the partisans.

That’s something Team Franken has been trying to change since the outset. Thsu far, they’ve failed miserably in effecting that change.

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I just returned from the Stearns County clerk’s office. The clerk’s office in just down the hall from where they’re doing the recount. While at the Clerk’s office, I asked if they’d heard if they’d finish the recount today as scheduled. The people there weren’t certain because they were now checking the backs of ballots.

Though the people in the Clerk’s office weren’t certain who was doing this, I’m betting that it’s Franken’s people who were asking for that. I can’t picture Sen. Coleman’s people doing that since they’re ahead. This tactic will certainly slow this process down while having little impact on the outcome.

Since a lawsuit is sure to be filed by the candidate who’s trailing, I decided to check on whether Minnesota Election law speaks to that. Here’s what I found:

209.021 NOTICE OF CONTEST.
Subdivision 1. Manner; time; contents.
Service of a notice of contest must be made in the same manner as the service of summons in civil actions. The notice of contest must specify the grounds on which the contest will be made. The contestant shall serve notice of the contest on the parties enumerated in this section. Notice must be served and filed within five days after the canvass is completed in the case of a primary or special primary or within seven days after the canvass is completed in the case of a special or general election; except that if a contest is based on a deliberate, serious, and material violation of the election laws which was discovered from the statements of receipts and disbursements required to be filed by candidates and committees, the action may be commenced and the notice served and filed within ten days after the filing of the statements in the case of a general or special election or within five days after the filing of the statements in the case of a primary or special primary. If a notice of contest questions only which party received the highest number of votes legally cast at the election, a contestee who loses may serve and file a notice of contest on any other ground during the three days following expiration of the time for appealing the decision on the vote count.
Subd. 2. Notice filed with court. If the contest relates to a nomination or election for statewide office, the contestant shall file the notice of contest with the court administrator of district court in Ramsey county. For contests relating to any other office, the contestant shall file the notice of contest with the court administrator of district court in the county where the contestee resides.
If the contest relates to a constitutional amendment or other question voted on statewide, the contestant shall file the notice of contest with the court administrator of district court in Ramsey county. If the contest relates to any other question, the contestant shall file the notice of contest with the court administrator of district court for the county or any one of the counties where the
question appeared on the ballot.

Ramsey District Court appears to be Ground Zero for statewide election disputes. From there, it would got to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, then to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Minnesota Court of Appeals “provides the citizens of Minnesota with prompt and deliberate review of all final decisions of the trial courts, state agencies and local governments.”

Unless something totally unforeseen happens, this case will be heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The other X factor in all this is the United States Senate. They can vote to seat either of these candidates. I can’t see them exercising their right to seat Franken if he’s trailing. Every Democratic senator that votes to seat Al Franken will be tarred and feathered with this. They’ll be ridiculed, especially after they’ve made an eith year mantra of count every vote.

It’d be politically difficult to justify seating Franken. The outrage over their arrogance would make Democrats toxic during the next election cycle.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Friday’s news that Team Franken had challenged 51 ballots in Meeker County to 7 challenges by the Coleman campaign highlights the high stakes PR game that Team Franken is playing with the recount.

I posted here that I was part of the Krueger-Fobbe recount of ballots in Morrison County. Team DFL challenged 1 ballot the entire time. We sorted through approximately 1,400 ballots that day. There were a number of ballots that were let through that required a closer look. Most of those ballots had an X in the oval, clearly signifying intent, then filled in afterwards.

It isn’t particularly shocking that Franken’s supporters are starting to worry:

Yesterday, Norm Coleman’s lead continued to decline, but at a much slower pace. With any luck, the rate of decline will increase again on Monday, or it could spell trouble for Franken.

I’m not suggesting that Team Franken is in full-fledged panic mode. I’m simply suggesting that they realize that their chances of flipping this race shrink each time a recount precinct stays unchanged.

Cullen Sheehan was right yesterday in saying that the “Franken campaign understands that it’s in their interest to challenge more ballots.” That’s certainly their right. I just don’t anticipate it being a particularly effective strategy.

I definitely agree with TCDL’s statement here:

However, with over 1500 total challenges so far, anything could happen. The number of challenges dwarfes Coleman’s lead, and it will continue to rise. The outcome of this race won’t be known until all of the challenges are dealt with.

I think some of the challenges are legitimate challenges, though that doesn’t mean they’ll be settled in Franken’s favor. I’m confident that the lion’s share of challenged ballots will be counted the way the machine counted them, though.

That isn’t good news for Team Franken.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Coleman campaign chairman Cullen Sheehan issued this statement immediately after today’s canvassing board hearing:

“As the Canvassing Board rejected the Franken Campaign’s brazen attempt to stop the recount, it’s clear the Franken Campaign now has to answer questions about which counties they accuse of failing to do their jobs. We find these last minute accusations to be an insult to every election official who has worked diligently to complete the work they were called upon to finish prior to today’s canvassing hearing.”

I wrote here that David Lillehaug made the assertion that they’d found errors in handline of absentee ballots in 49 of Minnesota’s 87 counties. I noticed that Mr. Lillehaug didn’t cite any documentation that Team Franken had sent that pointed at this information. I think it’s odd that they didn’t cite a report showing this.

What I recall is that Mr. Lillehaug kept saying that he could point to many more incidences than the 4 Team Franken has already mentioned. I thought it sounded like John Kerry in 04 saying that his plan was on Kerry-Edwards04.com and John McCain this year saying that “I know how to fix these problems”, then noticeably not providing specifics on how he’d fix the economy. If Mr. Lillehaug is capable of citing specifics, now’s the time to do it.

Another thing I recall from today’s hearing is the repeated use of the term “flurry of documents” provided by the Franken campaign. Judge Gearin mentioned that some of the documents arrived minutes before their departure for the meeting. Lillehaug must’ve known that they couldn’t have reviewed this material, much less rule on this information.

If the Franken campaign had that information, they should’ve made extra copies of the documentation, which they could’ve given to the press to dutifully investigated.

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GOP activists never bought into the notion that Minnesota SecState Mark Ritchie wasn’t a hyperpartisan political hack. Thanks to this MSNBC video, we now have verifiable proof that Mr. Ritchie is a hyperpartisan political hack:

Cullen Sheehan quickly responded with this statement:

“When the Coleman campaign raises legitimate ballot security concerns, over instances such as 32 new ballots appearing in the car of a Minneapolis city official, Mr. Ritchie goes on a national media campaign characterizing our actions as political,” Sheehan said in a statement.

“His accusation today that our campaign intends to win ‘at any price’ is offensive, demands an apology and simply underscores our concerns about his ability to act as an unbiased official in this recount. His statement is not reflective of the objective, non-partisan standards Minnesotans expect and deserve, and which Mr. Ritchie as Secretary of State is sworn to uphold. And we are concerned about the pattern we are seeing.”

Mark Ritchie’s long history of ultraliberal activism alone makes his objectivity suspect. His statement that Sen. Coleman’s only concern was winning at all costs is just additional proof that he lacks objectivity.

Thus far, Minnesotans haven’t seen the type of transparency needed. They haven’t seen anything remotely resembling uniformity of procedures in securing the ballots. Unfortunately, we’ve seen altogether too much in terms of magically appearing ballots, all of which, miraculously, are going to Al Franken.

When the next Minnesota Legislative session opens, I hope that the House GOP caucus pushes hard to pass legislation that would mandate uniformity in handling ballots and that mandates total transparency.

The federal government mandates that each city develops a plan for handling various homeland security-related issues. Shouldn’t it be a high priority for cities to develop and maintain a ballot chain of custody plan? It’s painfully obvious that this type of plan doesn’t currently exist in Minnesota.

Finally, as far as I can tell, Mark Ritchie hasn’t lifted a finger to see if voters registered in Minnesota are registered elsewhere, too. Why hasn’t he verified the integrity of Minnesota’s voter registration lists? Shouldn’t that be a priority with Mr. Ritchie?

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The AP is reporting that Team Franken Lawyer David Lillehaug asked the Hennepin County canvassing board to reconsider 461 ballots that had previously been rejected. Here’s what they’re reporting:

Minnesota’s largest county has declined a request from Al Franken’s Senate campaign to reconsider some disqualified absentee ballots.

Franken trails GOP Sen. Norm Coleman by a little more than 200 votes and the race is headed for a recount starting next week.

Attorney David Lillehaug asked the Hennepin County canvassing board to reconsider 461 absentees that he said had been improperly rejected.

The Coleman campaign just issued this press release:

“The Al Franken campaign today tried to stuff new ballots into the ballot box in a brazen, last minute act of desperation. We have raised concerns repeatedly about these types of tactics by the Franken campaign. Today is further evidence of their intent to use whatever means necessary to counter the decision of the people of Minnesota. We applaud the actions of the Hennepin County Canvassing Board in rejecting this blatant, desperate act.”

Hennepin County is a big DFL stronghold, which leads to this important question: Why is it that only DFL strongholds have had difficulty with processing ballots? It isn’t like I’ve heard of rural counties having difficulty handling ballots. I haven’t heard of 32 previously unforeseen ballots show up in an election official’s car in Lac Qui Parle County. I haven’t heard of 100 new votes being added to Franken’s and Obama’s totals in Kandiyohi County.

That leads to another question: Are these problems a matter of incompetence? Or is it a matter of dishonesty? Or is it that the DFL doesn’t know how many votes it needs to manufacture to push Franken over the top? My hunch is that it’s D: all of the above.

John Lott has similar questions in this article:

Virtually all of Franken’s new votes came from just three out of 4130 precincts, and almost half the gain (246 votes) occurred in one precinct, Two Harbors, a small town north of Duluth along Lake Superior, a heavily Democratic precinct where Obama received 64 percent of the vote. None of the other races had any changes in their vote totals in that precinct.

Later, Lott writes this:

The Associated Press piece with the title “Most Minn. Senate ‘undervotes’ are from Obama turf” misinformed readers about what undervotes really imply. The Minneapolis Star Tribune headline similarly claimed “An analysis of ballots that had a vote for president but no vote for U.S. senator could have recount implications.”

The simple reality is that alot of Democrats didn’t like Al Franken to the point that they didn’t vote in the Senate race. I know this because I’ve talked with several DFL stalwarts prior to the election that said they wouldn’t vote for Franken but would vote for Obama.

Let’s hope that election officials don’t divine answers on their preferences but rather on what’s on the ballot.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Last night, I heard an ad sponsored by the DFL touting Lisa Fobbe as a moderate who’d bridge the gap “between the two extremes.” When I heard the DFL’s claims that Lisa Fobbe was a moderate, I almost lost it.

What type of person would hire someone who was suspended for “inappropriate and unprofessional behavior between himself and an employee under his supervision” to the position of high school principle?

What type of person would hire someone who attended an inpatient treatment program in July 2000 for his sexual addiction problems?

Why didn’t the Princeton School Board establish a monitoring program to make sure that Mr. Sleeper didn’t relapse? His ex-wife claims that he relapsed in 2006 by having at least one extramarital affair with a subordinate. That’s significant because that’s after he’d been promoted from high school principal to superintendant of Princeton schools. Let’s remember that Sleeper’s promotion happened when Ms. Fobbe chaired the Princeton School Board.

I’d further submit that 2006 isn’t an isolated incident. Because the Princeton School Board didn’t monitor Sleeper, we don’t know that he ever truly stopped his deviant behavior.

Why would the Princeton School Board hire someone with a sexual addiction to a position where he’s around school children?

Frankly, Lisa Fobbe’s decisionmaking abilities are questionable or irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst. I’ve spoken with careeer educators from various levels of education, from middle school to high school to college. With near unanimity, they told me it’s difficult to imagine someone with that type of history even getting an interview, much less getting hired and promoted. With unanimity, they said that such a person would be monitored for similar offenses.

In the end, I think that Alison Krueger will win. I hope that the voters in SD-16 reject someone with a shoddy decisionmaking record like Ms. Fobbe’s. Most importantly, I hope the voters in SD-16 pick Alison Krueger because of the abilities that she’d bring to the table.

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