BREAKING: MN Supreme Court: Franken Won (UPDATED X2)

It’s been nearly 8 months since Election Day.

It’s been more than 6 months since Inauguration Day.

And, finally, Minnesota’s outstanding Senate race has been decided.

Minnesota’s Supreme Court has affirmed [PDF] that Al Franken is the duly-elected junior Senator from Minnesota, having garnered more votes than former Senator Norm Coleman.

Of course, Franken still needs a certificate of election signed by his state’s governor, Republican Tim Pawlenty. But Pawlenty said that he would abide by the Supreme Court’s decision:

Minnesota law does not allow the governor to sign an election certificate until the state court process is complete. And when it is, and they direct me to sign the certificate, I’m going to sign it. There’s not going to be any undue delay or the like. But I’m going to follow the direction of the courts in that regard and we’re going to be having a decision here in the coming weeks … I have to follow the law. If the Minnesota Supreme Court says, “You sign the certificate” — and there’s not an appeal or some other contrary direction from a federal court — you know, that’s my duty. I can’t just ignore that or say I don’t feel like following a directive from the Minnesota Supreme Court. That would not be the responsible thing to do.

[Emphasis mine]

There’s a chance that Coleman could appeal this decision to the federal judiciary, which may give Pawlenty room to once again put off signing a certificate.

But the Minnesota Supreme Court should be the final say in this case, and they have resoundingly affirmed that Al Franken is the junior Senator from Minnesota.

UPDATE: I should note that the decision was unanimous–the court ruled 5-0 in Franken’s favor.

Here’s the key part of the ruling:

For all of the foregoing reasons, we affirm the decision of the trial court that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minn. Stat. § 204C.40 (2008) to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota.

UPDATE II: Norm Coleman just conceded; congratulations to Senator Al Franken!


Where’s The Beef?

As expected, Norm Coleman is taking the results of the Minnesota recount to court:

In a brief press conference, Norm Coleman’s campaign lawyers reaffirmed that they will challenge the result in court.

Coleman’s lead lawyer Fritz Knaak said the process in the recount was broken, and today’s events were just further proof of that. “We are prepared to go forward and take whatever legal action is necessary to remedy this artificial lead,” said Knaak.

But what, exactly, is their case? Coleman’s previous allegations about duplicate ballots was thrown out by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Simply alleging that the process is “broken” because your candidate didn’t win isn’t enough.

I’m sure Coleman will come up with some kind of justification for their legal challenges, but the fact that they’re going to court first and finding a reason to second is exceptionally telling.

Swing And A Miss

Big John Cornyn’s just started as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and he kicked off his new office by attacking Al Franken over the Minnesota recount.  But it looks like he tripped over a big pile of fail on the way to whatever point he was trying to make.

Let’s parse:

Al Franken is falsely declaring victory

Actually, the Franken campaign is expressing confidence that they will win, not saying they’ve already won. It’s a narrow distinction, but if Cornyn is going to hit Franken over it then he should at least get his facts straight.

based on an artificial lead created on the back of the double counting of ballots.

Actually, when Coleman sued over the alleged duplicate ballots, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled he didn’t have enough evidence to prove that even a single ballot was counted twice. But good try there.

His campaign’s actions in the last several days on the issues of rejected absentee ballots are creating additional chaos and disorder in the Minnesota recount.

Actually, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that there were about 1,300 improperly-rejected absentee ballots that should be counted, and they ordered the Franken and Coleman camps to work together to determine which of those votes should be added to the recount.  Franken is the one saying all of those votes should be counted since they were improperly-rejected; it’s the Coleman campaign who has creatied chaos and disorder by insisting that only 136 of those ballots be counted.

Those actions, coupled with the recent comments by Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who suggests seating someone even if there is an election contest, are unprecedented.

Actually, like TPM points out:

Cornyn alleges that it is “unprecedented” to seat someone while an election is still being disputed. As recently as 2007, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) was seated without prejudice by the majority-Democratic House while his election was being contested, and in 1997 the majority-Republican Senate provisionally seated Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) after her GOP opponent alleged irregularities in her very narrow win.

Moving on:

Minnesotans will not accept a recount in which some votes are counted twice

First, see point #2 above.  Second, I don’t really think the junior Senator from Texas knows much about what the people of  Minnesota will or will not accept.

and I expect the Senate would have a problem seating a candidate who has not duly won an election.

What’s the definition of someone who duly wins an election? You duly win an election by  getting the most votes. As it stands, Al Franken has the most votes.  And while Norm Coleman may go to court and try to sue his way back into office, right now Al Franken has duly won the Minnesota election.

Thus, the United States Senate should seat Senator Franken, and ignore the moronic fauxtrage coming from people like John Cornyn.

Stealing Minnesota

It looks like Norm Coleman wants to steal back what he lost:

Minnesota’s highest court on Wednesday ruled against Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s attempt to keep dozens of possible double votes from Democratic-heavy precincts out of the long-running U.S. Senate recount, but left the door open for a lawsuit.


Coleman’s attorneys, who said the campaign was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, added that it virtually guaranteed the recount would end in litigation and delay the seating of a Minnesota senator past Jan. 6, when the next Congress convenes.

“This is close enough so that inevitably as a result of this decision, either party is going to be filing a lawsuit,” said Fritz Knaak, Coleman’s lead attorney for the recount.

Here was the issue at hand:

In a brief, unanimous decision handed out earlier this afternoon, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied Norm Coleman’s request to prevent certification of the recount until claims regarding alleged double-counted ballots are resolved. Nor will it require any further efforts from the counties in pursuit of such ballots.

The Court decided simply that Coleman hadn’t presented enough evidence, essentially challenging him to contest the election if he could come back with more. As we pointed out yesterday, while it is nearly guaranteed that there were at least some instances of double-counting, the same discrepancies could be explained by other phenomena, an Coleman’s case relied on what might could best be described as circumstantial evidence.

So Coleman says there are ballots that were duplicated but not marked as duplicates, leading to a single vote being counted twice; the problem is, they have no evidence that actually occurred.  So in the end, the court decided they had no grounds upon which to overturn the result of the recount.

A win is a win; even if it’s by a small margin, whoever gets the most legitimately-cast votes takes office.  Norm Coleman is trying to weasel his way back into the Senate by disregarding the will of the voters.  But when this is  all said and done, Coleman won’t have a legal leg to stand on–or a Senate seat to sit in.

A Lump Of Coal In His Stocking

To Norm Coleman from the Minnesota Supreme Court:

The Minnesota Supreme Court today denied a bid by Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) to force the state Canvassing Board to consider his campaign’s claim that some votes in strongholds of Al Franken (D) were counted twice, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Most observers consider this a major blow to Coleman’s chances to prevail in the recount that began on November 19. Current unofficial results show Franken with a lead of 47 votes.

The Supreme Court ruled that the courts, not the state Canvassing Board, is the appropriate body to resolve Coleman’s claims about “duplicate” ballots.  And since Coleman hasn’t been able to produce much evidence to support his allegations, it’s questionable if he can succeed via a court battle.

The Franken campaign, on the other hand, is optimistic about their chances:

The Franken campaign was jubilant after the Supreme Court ruling and expressed confidence that the election outcome would not be delayed by a court challenge over those ballots.

“We win in Supreme Court,” Franken spokesman Andy Barr said after the release of the 5-0 opinion written by Justice Alan Page. “The process can move forward despite attempts to halt its progress and cast doubt on the result.”

Franken is leading by 50 votes and Coleman is running out of things to challenge.  If he can’t find a friendly court to deal with this, that 50 vote gap will be big enough to kick Coleman out of  his Senate seat for good.

Panic! At The Recount

[No, I will not apologize for my terrible headline.]

The Minnesota GOP is panicking because Al Franken appears to be the winner of the Minnesota recount.

They’re so panicked they’ve sent out a hilarious press release begging for money. Let’s look:

As you may know, the precinct recount phase of the Minnesota Senate race was won by Sen. Norm Coleman on Election Day.

Yes, and? Norm Coleman’s margin of victory was so slim it triggered an automatic recount. Automatic recounts exist because there are often errors in counting votes on election night.  Usually there aren’t enough errors to change the outcome of an election, since candidates tend to win by pretty wide margins. But that wasn’t the case in this election, hence the recount.

The point of a recount is to discover and resolve those errors in order to ensure that the person who’s declared the winner of the election was the person who actually got the most votes. That raises the question, then, of why the MNGOP doesn’t want to make sure that every vote is counted correctly.

Moving on:

But Al Franken still won’t concede. Instead, Franken raised millions of dollars from liberals in New York and Hollywood to fight a “legal” battle to undo the will of the voters.

First, the margin of victory was so slim that it triggered an automatic recount, as required by Minnesota law. In other words, even if Franken had given up on election night, there still would have been a recount, because election officials want to be sure that the person who takes office really did win the most votes. They’re picky like that.

Second, considering Norm Coleman’s ongoing scandals, I don’t think the MNGOP is in any position to attack anyone else’s’ fundraising sources.

[Franken] even got the Minnesota Supreme Court to order canvassing boards to consider about 1600 previously rejected and questionable ballots.

Out of the 7 Justices on the MN Supreme Court, 4 were appointed by Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty: Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, G. Barry Anderson, Lorie Skjerven Gildea and Christopher Dietzen. One Justice was appointed by Independent Governor Jesse Ventura: Helen M. Meyer.

This means the MN Supreme Court has a 5-2 non-Democratic majority. So how in the world would Franken “get” the court to do anything considering that he’s a partisan candidate for political office? It’s not like we have a Democratic candidate in cahoots with a Democratic court.

Perhaps the MN Supreme Court ruled in Franken’s favor because his case had legal merit. Imagine that.

Then again, I guess the MNGOP wouldn’t raise any money at all if they had to admit that they couldn’t litigate their way out of a paper bag.

Now, Republican Norm Coleman has until December 31st to fight against Franken’s liberal legal team to keep his Senate seat.

First, it’s not his Senate seat; it belongs to the people of Minnesota. If Coleman won the most votes, then it’s his seat. But he’s not entitled to it unless he’s determined to be the winner of the election, which is what this whole recount business is supposed to sort out.

Second, the letter opens by accusing Franken and his “liberal allies” of “working feverishingly [sic] to steal the Minnesota Senate election.” But the MNGOP does on to beg for money so that Norm Coleman can fight the results of the recount in court.

Guess what? If the state determines that the your opponent won the most votes and you challenge their decision in court, It’s not the other guy “stealing” the election. It’s you.

How rediculous is it that the MNGOP is accusing the guy who won the most votes of “stealing” the election, while portraying the guy using the courts to swing the election in his favor as fighting the good fight?

Perhaps they should follow the same advice they–idiotically–gave Al Franken on election night and just give up already. If anything, it would at least save them some embarrassment.

Franken Projected To Win Recount By 89 Votes (UPDATED X4)

From Raw Story:

As of Thursday night, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s official lead over Democratic challenger Al Franken had shrunk to single digits, with 5,861 challenged ballots remaining to be counted.

But a newspaper’s count of remaining challenges suggests Franken will end up the winner.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, having just wrapped its own count of the ballots in question, predicts a final margin of just 89 votes, in Franken’s favor. A Franken win would give Democrats 59 Senate seats.

In addition to the challenged ballots, MN’s Supreme Court has ordered the campaigns, the Secretary of State, the county auditors and the canvassing boards to develop a process to identify and count wrongfully rejected absentee ballots.

This is something the Franken campaign has been pushing for, since they believe more of the rejected absentee ballots will be for Franken than Coleman.

There’s a lot left to be resolved, but at the moment all signs are pointing toward a Franken victory.

UPDATE: Franken has officially taken the lead, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

As it stands, Franken is leading Coleman by 197 votes.

UPDATE II: The Coleman camp is getting desperate–they’ve filed a legal brief bringing up the specter of “duplicate” ballots.

But the Franken campaign is saying it’s a non-issue, and they’re noting that the Coleman campaign’s current position on “duplicate” ballots is the opposite of their previous position.

UPDATE III: You can watch live streaming video of the state Canvassing Board processing the challenged ballots here.

Currently, Franken is ahead of Coleman by 260 votes; the Star-Tribune has adjusted their projection and now predict that Franken will win by 77 votes.

UPDATE IV: The Canvassing Board just made a decision that almost guarantees this will wind up in court.

The Coleman campaign was making an issue of “duplicate” ballots–Minnesota uses optical scan voting machines.  Voters fill out paper ballots, which are then fed through a machine which reads the ballot and tabulates the results.

But if the machine can’t read a ballot, poll workers fill out a new ballot identical to the one that won’t go through; usually, the original is supposed to be marked “original” and the duplicate is supposed to be marked “duplicate.”  Coleman’s camp alleges that there were instances where the originals and duplicates were not clearly marked and ended up mixed in with other ballots, thus ensuring that some individual’s votes were counted twice.

The Coleman campaign had 300-400 ballot challenges based on this, alleging that those challenged ballots were duplicates and needed to be reviewed.  The Canvassing board just ruled that the determination of whether or not ballots are duplicates or double-counted is outside their jurisdiction and, as a result, threw out those 300-400 challenges.

Thus, if Franken’s final margin of victory at the end of the canvass is less than 400 votes, it’s almost certain Coleman will take it to court and have them determine the issue of “duplicate” ballots.