Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Senate recount update: Coleman camp takes separate objections to Supreme Court and Canvassing Board

By Eric Black | Monday, Dec. 15, 2008
The state’s highest court will review the “old issue” of procedures for handling rejected absentee ballots at a hearing Wednesday.

Some of Monday’s news from Recountland:

1. The Minnesota Supreme Court just issued an order (PDF) scheduling a hearing for 1 p.m.Wednesday. It will hear arguments from the Coleman and Franken campaigns on the issues raised by the Coleman campaign in their filings over the weekend.

Coleman had asked the Court to stop the counties from proceeding with sorting, opening or counting of  rejected absentee ballots until the Court could consider Coleman’s complaints about the way the issue of disqualified ballots was being handled. The court didn’t issue an injunction for the counties to hold off, but ordered those that are proceeding with the recount to preserve the record of their decisions in a way that will enable to the court to later decide whether proper actions were taken, ballot by ballot, and reverse those that were improper.

(Seems likely that under those circumstances, most counties will hold off until they get further guidance from the Supremes.)

The Court also ordered Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to prepare materials on absentee ballots that will allow the court to consider whether it needs to get involved in the issues over whether the contested absentee ballots should be opened.

P.S. On this ruling, Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson, who are in the awkward position of serving on both the Supreme Court and on the State Canvassing Board, played no role and will presumably do the same on Wednesday.  

2. The Coleman campaign also filed a petition with the Canvassing Board raising the issue of duplicate ballots, which I gather is one of the next big arguments for the recount story in the days just ahead. Coleman is asking for a hearing on the question and alleging that the way duplicate ballots have been handled to date raises a danger that certain ballots have been counted twice.

Duplicate ballots occur when an original ballot can’t be fed into the voting machines on Election Day. The law allows an election judge to create a duplicate, feed that into the machines and save the original in a separate envelope. The problem arises when, during a recount, the number of original ballots and duplicates doesn’t match up.

It’s not clear to me why, but for some reason, the way this problem was handled came out favorably for the Franken campaign, possibly by a significant number of ballots. Team Coleman is urgently trying to get the Canvassing Board to consider whether the practice followed during the recount has caused votes to be double-counted. They want the board to hear arguments from both campaigns Tuesday when it meets to start considering challenged ballots.

3. Both campaigns held press conferences Monday morning. Coleman recount lawyer Fritz Knaak continued to press his argument that the counties not proceed to reconsider disqualified absentee ballots. Franken recount lawyer Marc Elias reviewed a Sunday AP story that seemed to say that the review of challenged ballots would put Franken ahead. He said of Knaak’s various legal maneuvers: “They’re suing because they’re behind.” He called it “a cynical and desperate attempt …to stop the train from moving.”