Court Deals Coleman a Major Setback

Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:29pm

In yet another setback for Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), the state Supreme Court on Monday denied his third lawsuit to include more than 600 previously improperly rejected absentee ballots in the recount in his race with comedian Al Franken (D).

In the court’s response, Associate Justice Alan Page wrote that because the campaigns could not agree on a set of additional wrongfully rejected absentee ballots to add to the final count, none would be included.

Coleman’s 11th-hour lawsuit was viewed as his greatest hope to regain ground in his race against Franken, who leads by 225 votes. Election officials opened and counted more than 900 previously rejected absentee ballots this weekend, which boosted Franken’s lead significantly.

The state canvassing board is scheduled to meet to report Franken’s win Monday afternoon, but Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D) and Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) then must sign off on the election certification within a week.

Coleman recount attorney Fritz Knaak said in a statement responding to the court ruling that the campaign plans to contest the election results.

“Given our campaign’s unwavering commitment to ensuring that the vote of no Minnesotan is disenfranchised, today’s ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court is both disappointing and disheartening,” Knaak said. “The fact that the Franken campaign now rejects the notion of every valid vote being counted so they can attempt to declare victory on the basis of a broken process, and an artificial lead built on double counting of votes should concern all Minnesotans. Today’s ruling, which effectively disregards the votes of hundreds of Minnesotans, ensures that an election contest is now inevitable.”

Coleman’s recount attorneys have said they will contest the election results based on “double voting” and lost ballots, among other issues, which they said benefited Franken by at least 125 votes. But given Franken’s relatively large lead over Coleman after Saturday’s absentee ballot count, it’s unlikely Coleman could surpass him without adding any more absentee ballots to the final count.

In addition to legal action, Coleman can count on his Senate Republican colleagues to block Franken. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said last week that he plans to block any Democratic attempts to seat Franken until the election is resolved.

“The reality is that he does not have an election certificate and will not have one until all these challenges are addressed,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matthew Miller said Coleman has finally struck out.

“Unfortunately for him, three strikes and he’s out,” Miller said. “This was his last hope — and he’s now faced with no possibility of stopping the recount from being completed today. The state canvassing board is set to certify Al Franken the Senator-elect from Minnesota, and it’s time for the Republican Party to face the facts: Al Franken won this election.”