The Minnesota Supreme Court this evening swiftly denied Rep. Tom Emmer’s petition seeking to force some county election officials to redo the way they reconciled votes in the 2010 general election.
The Court’s ruling (PDF) was succinct and without an opinion for now.
It said that the Emmer petition alleged “that the Minnesota State Canvassing Board was about to commit an error in certifying the correctness of the results” of the Nov. 2 election.
The five justices who heard the case denied that assertion and denied the petition.
“So as not to impede the orderly election process,” Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote, the court’s opinion will be filed later.
The ruling was a huge defeat for Emmer, who has been seeking ways to either gain more votes, reduce Dayton’s lead or show that election officials statewide somehow didn’t follow proper procedures.
The Court’s ruling came barely 90 minutes after lawyers for both sides argued before the five justices, who seemed to be skeptical of Emmer’s argument, advanced by lawyer Diane Bratvold, that a state rule — in place since the early 1980s — should be the prevailing way for election officials to keep track of the number of voters who cast votes.
After Election Day, and behind by 8,755 votes, Emmer wanted the so-called “reconciliation” of votes to be done using the signatures on precinct rosters.
But DFL candidate Mark Dayton’s lawyer, Marc Elias, and a lawyer for the Secretary of State’s Office said the signature method hasn’t been used by all counties for nearly 30 years.
Elias called the signature issue “a red herring.” Signing in has to do with fraud. And this case — and the outcome of the recount — is about counting votes, he said.
Later, Elias said Dayton’s lead is “insurmountable.” Emmer lawyer Tony Trimble suggested his client could pick up a couple of votes per precinct out of the state’s 4,136 precincts.
But the numbers aren’t bearing that out. So far, in random post-election reviews of hundreds of sample precincts, Emmer has picked up a total of 3 votes and Dayton 18. Somehow overcoming a nearly 9,000-vote lead seems difficult, at best.
The five justices hearing the case today were Chief Gildea, Associate Chief Justice Alan Page, Justice G. Barry Anderson, Justice Christopher Dietzen and Justice Helen Meyer.
The other court members — Justices Paul Anderson and David Stras — sit on the State Canvassing Board, which will meet Tuesday at 10 a.m.
The drama of Tuesday’s board meeting could be an attempt by former Chief Justice Eric Magnuson to seek some similar relief from the board that his colleagues failed to get today from the High Court. Magnuson is one of Emmer’s lawyers. He was a member of the State Canvassing Board in 2008 during the Al Franken-Norm Coleman recount.
Jay Weiner, who won the Frank Premack Award for his coverage of the 2008 Coleman-Franken recount, is the author of “This Is Not Florida,” a new book about the legal wrangling.