We may still be weeks away from a decision in Minnesota, where Norm Coleman (R) is challenging the result of November’s Senate election against Al Franken. (The current tally puts Franken ahead by 225 votes.) Coleman closed his case this week and hinted that perhaps the judges hearing the election challenge should just consider the idea of holding a new election. “In the end, I think, that’s something folks have to think about,” Coleman said. ”The court is going to have to reflect on that.”
The fact that this argument is even being made looks very bad for Coleman, but don’t make too much of it. The general idea is that by the standards the court set for admitting further absentee ballots, hundreds if not thousands of votes that were already added to the current tally are also illegal. In fact, the case will probably hinge on whether the judges buy the other arguments he has made in court so far that a few thousand more ballots should be added to the count.
Al Franken’s team, which is presenting its case now, argues that there is no provision under state law that would allow the court to order a re-vote, and they are trying to add hundreds of ballots as well. They are fighting it out inch by inch — or literally, ballot-by-ballot. Yesterday, Franken’s side called 23 absentee voters as witnesses, to testify that their ballots were wrongly rejected. The Coleman team has acknowledged that at least four of the witnesses’ ballots should be counted, but another three of Franken’s witnesses did admit, under cross-examination, that their votes may have been rejected for legitimate reasons.
An appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court or even to the federal courts could mean that the Senate seat remains vacant for months. The most important temporary casualty is the Employee Free Choice Act, which, based on the last time it received a vote, cannot receive the 60 votes it will need without Franken in the Senate.