With the stakes mounting, and Democratic candidate Al Franken roughly 50 votes in the lead in the Minnesota Senate race, incumbent Norm Coleman is getting nervous. Instead of counting ballots and ascertaining the true intent of the voters, Republicans are taking a play from the contested Presidential election in 2000 in Florida. That is, head to the courts and hope that they can stop the vote counting. How undemocratic….how typically Republican.
Tonight is the deadline for campaigns to reach agreement on which rejected absentee ballots can be added to the mix in Minnesota’s disputed U-S Senate race between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.
That could all change, if Senator Coleman’s campaign convinces the Minnesota Supreme Court to intervene and scrap the process.
On New Year’s Eve Coleman’s attorneys petitioned the high court to stop the ballot review process, which began Tuesday in a series of regional meetings across the state.
Those meetings were for the most part limited to a pool of 1,350 unopened ballots local officials decided were rejected by mistake.
The Supreme Court ruled in December that those rejects can be revived and counted, but only in cases where both campaigns agree.
In Hennepin County Friday morning, the two campaigns finished their review of 329 rejected absentee ballots. They reached agreement that 257 can be revised. The Franken campagne blocked 37 of those ballots and the Coleman campaign disqualified 32 of them.
Originally Franken’s campaign agreed to accept all 1,350 of them, but when it became clear in the Coleman campaign was blocking some of those ballots in the local review sessions the Franken campaign followed suit.
In Ramsey County Franken’s camp shot down 33 while Coleman’s derailed 21.
On Monday Coleman’s lawyers failed to persuade the Secretary of State’s office and the Franken campaign to consider a group of 654 other rejected absentees identified by the Coleman campaign as wrongly rejected.
Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann told local officials to focus on the stack of 1,350 they assembled; pointing out that the two campaigns missed a self-imposed deadline of 3 p.m. Monday to mutually agree on any other questionable absentees.
So Coleman is now asking the Supreme Court to force those other ballots onto the table, and to move all the judging to one central location in the Secretary of State’s office in Saint Paul.
Coleman’s lead recount attorney, Fritz Knaak, complained that local county election directors around the state weren’t applying consistent standards at those regional meetings.
He said in Mower County local election officials voluntarily agreed to review new ballots pinpointed by Coleman’s campaign. In other Duluth and Minneapolis, on the other hand, officials stuck with the original group of 1,350.
The Franken campaign criticized Coleman’s latest overture as an to “distract from the ballot counting process” and an effort to “cast doubt on the outcome of the election.”
Franken led Coleman by 49 votes after the results of the statewide manual recount were tallied.
Those rejected absentees that make the cut are scheduled to be counted on Saturday, which would clear the way for the State Canvassing Board to declare a winner on Monday.
But Coleman’s attorneys have already signaled they’ll take the battle to a formal post-election court contest over the issue of unmarked duplicate ballots in Minneapolis they contend led to double counting of votes during the recount.