Minnesota’s never-ending Senate race is continuing to never end. While the Canvassing Board did get through all of Al Franken’s challenges today, Norm Coleman’s thousand-odd challenges remain. And the legal action is getting fast and furious. Where are we? Let’s recap:
- Norm Coleman has increased his lead over Franken to 362 votes. That’s not shocking; most of the challenges Franken issued were challenges to Coleman votes, and so Franken challenges that were overruled ended up being added to the vote total.
- That’s important, because Coleman has significantly more challenges than Franken does — over twice as many. If Coleman’s challenges are similar in nature to Frankens, and if they’re rejected in similar percentages to Franken’s, then Franken could pick up about 400 votes.
- Of course, those are mighty big ifs. And even a small variance could leave Franken shy a few votes.
- The good news for Franken is that there are more votes out there. There are a number of absentee ballots, perhaps as many as 1500 statewide, that were improperly rejected on election day. State statutes provide for reasons one can reject them (i.e., the outer envelope wasn’t signed, or the signatures don’t match), but some were rejected for other reasons (i.e., the signature wasn’t dated; while a space exists to do so, it’s not required to be on the ballot by statute). While one wouldn’t expect these to yield 200-odd votes for Franken, they probably lean his way by enough to push him over the top, maybe.
- Because of this, the Coleman campaign went to court today to stop these ballots from counting. Their argument was that the statute is vague, and that for these ballots to be counted they would have to be counted after the vote is certified, via court challenged. This got a skeptical response from the Justices of the State Supreme Court; they seemed more likely to back Coleman’s fall-back position of setting up a single, state-wide standard for handling the votes.
- Until the Minnesota Supreme Court rules, however, these votes are in limbo. Associate Justice Alan Page, presiding in the absence of Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, said a ruling would be “forthcoming,” but was not more specific.
- Yes, that Alan Page.
- Page was presiding because Magnuson and Associate Justice Barry Anderson are a part of the State Canvassing Board, and therefore can’t rule impartially on challenges to them. That makes the court a bit more Democratic-friendly. Magnuson and Barry Anderson are Pawlenty appointees, as are Justices Lorie Skjerven Gildea and Christopher Dietzen. Justice Helen Meyer was appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura, IP-Minn., and my personal favorite member of the court, Justice Paul Anderson, was appointed by moderate Republican Gov. Arne Carlson. Page is the only Democrat on the court, having won his race for an open seat in 1992.
- The Coleman campaign also advanced the issue of duplicate ballots, which are sometimes filled out in cases where an absentee ballot arrives damaged. The Coleman campaign says that there may have been as many as 150 ballots cast where both the original and duplicate ballots were added to the count. The Canvassing Board seemed sympathetic to the complaint — after all, it’s as reasonable to not want ballots double-counted as it’s reasonable to want all ballots counted — but they weren’t sure they could provide a remedy. They’ll issue a ruling tomorrow morning, which could spark still more lawsuits.
Dizzy yet? Me too. And we’ve still got at least two more days of ballot challenge decisions, plus lawsuits, lawsuits, and more lawsuits. Will it ever end? Well, consider this — in 1962, the last statewide general election recount in Minnesota, DFLer Karl Rolvaag ousted Republican Gov. Elmer Anderson by 91 votes out of 1.3 million cast.
That election wasn’t decided until March of 1963.
It could be a long and bumpy ride.