The three-judge panel overseeing the U.S. Senate election contest late this afternoon denied Al Franken’s request to toss out Norm Coleman’s challenge.
It was, to a certain extent, an expected ruling. It seemed unlikely the judges would halt the full-blown trial before it started. Franken’s lawyers had argued that any “irregularities” in the recount should be taken to the U.S. Senate and not necessarily resolved in Minnesota courts.
But the three-judges – Stearns County District Judge Elizabeth Hayden, Pennington County District Judge Kurt Marben and Hennepin County District Judge Denise Reilly — found Coleman’s allegations on alleged “numerous material errors” specific enough to move toward the trial.
There, Coleman will have to prove his case.
Also, the court denied a Coleman motion to bring the originals of about 11,000 rejected absentee ballots to St. Paul for potential examination.
Meanwhile, Coleman told the Associated Press today that any Democrat other than Franken would have beaten him.
One more major pre-trial hearing on motions for summary judgment is set for noon Friday.
There, the judges could narrow the scope of the trial, which now is likely to include the presentation of witnesses and evidence on, among other matters: absentee ballots, the alleged double-counting of votes and some missing votes from Election Night.
Meanwhile, Coleman lawyer Matthew Haapoja submitted an affidavit. In it, he identified 38 precincts where Coleman’s side believes as many as 214 ballots may have been double-counted. The Franken side has long argued that the Coleman side won’t have sufficient evidence at trial to prove there was double-counting.
Said Franken lawyer Marc Elias in a statement: “We have reviewed the court’s orders, we look forward to the trial commencing on Monday, and moving forward expeditiously so that Minnesotans can have two Senators representing them as quickly as possible. We continue to believe the hard work done by hundreds of election officials throughout the state and the bipartisan State Canvassing Board was done carefully and accurately and produced a result that will ultimately be upheld by the court.”
Countered Coleman lawyer and spokesman Ben Ginsberg: “Tonight’s decision from the court is a stinging defeat for Al Franken. It underscores that the Coleman contest will proceed, that there will be a trial, and that every valid vote will be counted and counted only once.
“This victory for the voters of Minnesota should serve as another strong reminder to [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid and Al Franken that they can’t just dismiss for their convenience the legal process in Minnesota. This will allow Minnesota voters whose votes have not yet been counted, to be counted.
“The Franken suggestion — repeated four times in court today — that this be done in D.C. by the U.S. Senate was soundly rejected by Minnesota judges invoking Minnesota law. Al Franken now needs to once and for all step aside and let the process run its course so Minnesota determines who rightfully won this election.”
Let the trial begin — on Monday.