As has been discussed here, Sen. Norm Coleman now trails Al Franken by 225 votes in Minnesota. What options are left to the Coleman campaign, now that the Minnesota Supreme Court has denied his legal bid to include 654 absentee ballots in the recount total?
The court makes clear in its ruling that Coleman can only change the count by contesting the election after the final count. In such an election contest, the 654 ballots could come back into play, along with others.
Yesterday, the St. Paul Pioneer-Press offered a few hints at what such a post-election lawsuit could include:
The 654 rejected absentee ballots the Coleman campaign says may be wrongly rejected…Those ballots tend to come from more Republican areas than the mistakenly rejected absentee ballots identified by county officials and included in the recount totals Saturday. If Coleman gets his way on those ballots, they could net him 50 votes or more. The 133 missing ballots from Ward 3, Precinct 1, in Minneapolis. Those ballots disappeared after Election Day and before the recount. The state canvassing board, upon request from the city’s elections director, voted to accept the election night total from that precinct. That decision netted Franken 46 votes. If that decision were reversed in an election lawsuit, Franken would lose those votes. The 171 found ballots in Maplewood’s Fire Station No. 7, where the city’s Precinct 6 voters cast their ballots. Those votes were uncounted on Election Day, but the ballots appeared during the hand recount. Franken netted 37 votes from their appearance. Potentially more than 100 Franken votes from various precincts in Minneapolis. The Coleman campaign believes those votes were counted twice in the recount, after damaged original ballots were separated from their duplicates created by election judges. The campaign told the state Supreme Court it believes both the original and the duplicate ballots were tallied. The court decided it could not sort through the issue but allowed that Coleman might bring it up in an election lawsuit, in which evidence and testimony could be gathered.
If he were to prevail on all of these issues, Coleman would win by a hair’s breadth. But there would be no margin for error. The Coleman camp promises a conference call later in the day. Their chances appear less than ideal at this point.
Still, Franken cannot receive official certification of his election from the state of Minnesota for at least seven days — and longer than that, if Coleman goes to court. Technically, this will put Franken in the same boat tomorrow as Roland Burris of Illinois, who also lacks certification, although the issues surrounding Burris are of a different nature. Secretary of State Jesse White has refused to certify Burris the midst of the scandal surrounding the man who appointed him, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D.).
Republicans have promised to prevent Franken from being sworn in without the certification. But as of this afternoon, Democrats say they are planning to seat him anyway.