Minnesota Supreme Court Halts Absentee Counting

Posted December 18, 2008 at 6:26pm

Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s petition to stop the sorting and counting of about 1,600 wrongly rejected absentee ballots has been granted by the state Supreme Court in the ongoing Minnesota Senate recount. Coleman petitioned the court Monday to halt the state’s counties from sorting and counting those ballots until a system for counting them had been determined.

As of Thursday evening, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune was projecting comedian Al Franken (D) would defeat Coleman by fewer than 100 votes without counting the improperly rejected absentee ballots. Franken’s campaign expects those ballots to boost his totals, while the Coleman campaign has said it is not sure how the ballots will affect the final count.

But in the opinion released Thursday evening, the court ordered local officials to stop counting wrongfully rejected absentee ballots until Coleman, Franken, the Minnesota secretary of state and local officials come up with a system to determine how to count them. Also by order of the court, the campaigns will have the option to challenge any of those ballots before the counties submit their amended canvassing totals to the state.

The court said counties must submit their amended their vote totals by 4 p.m. on Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, this week the state canvassing board continued to process the more than 1,000 ballots challenged by each campaign. Thursday evening, the Star-Tribune reported Coleman led Franken by five votes with hundreds of challenged ballots yet to be counted and the 1,600 absentee ballots left to be added to the mix.

The secretary of state expects to finish counting the challenged ballots Friday.