Al Franken's Lead Grows in Recount

Big news:

Democrat Al Franken today extended his lead over Republican Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate election, following the counting of about 350 formerly rejected absentee ballots this morning by a three-judge panel.

Unofficially, Franken took nearly 200 of the ballots, while Coleman added a little more than 100. The ballots added about 90 to Franken's recount lead, enlarging his margin over Coleman to more than 300.

The result makes it even more likely that, barring an unforeseen circumstance, Franken will prevail in the election lawsuit that Coleman filed in January to contest the Democrat's 225-vote recount lead. The court has not said when it will issue a final decision in the case.

With Norm Coleman's legal efforts in state courts largely unsuccessful (he still reserves the right to appeal to the state Supreme Court, though the current proceedings have dealt his candidacy serious setbacks) and his hopes in the federal courts even thinner, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel -- may be -- for Al Franken. More as we hear it, though...

Update [2009-4-7 13:27:9 by Todd Beeton]:Thanks, Norm! As a result of the former Senator's lawsuit, these ballots were opened and counted and the result reinforces what we've seen since election day: the more votes that are counted, the more Al Franken's lead grows. Tell Norm to give it up.

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Franken vs. Coleman

The Minnesota U.S. Senate recount and related litigation continue, with no end in sight, with Franken up by 225 as of April 2, 2009.

http://www.startribune.com/politics/nati onal/senate/

In the words of a Twin Cities' television news director and straight ticket Democratic voter (speaking on the top of a ski lift at Minnesota's Lutsen Mountains Resort overlooking Lake Superior), Franken was "a singularly divisive nominee". Franken was hurt by replays of perfectly acceptable television and radio jokes and comments that in the context of a campaign were deemed less than "senatorial".

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MN-Sen: Coleman Poised To Continue Appeals

On Tuesday when a 3-judge panel ruled that up to 400 absentee ballots be opened and counted in the Minnesota Senate race, many declared victory as though anything had truly changed. In fact, Al Franken was always likely to come out of the trial the victor but was still going to be denied a certificate of election as long as Coleman continued the court challenge. So, no shocker here, even after those 400 ballots are counted next week and Al Franken is declared the winner of the recount AGAIN, that's nothing close to the end; in fact, for Coleman it's just the beginning.

Norm reminded viewers that there will not be a certificate of election right after the court rules, as it will have to be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court: "Listen, it's taken a long time, but this is not judicial fast food."

Coleman was also in Washington yesterday, meeting with the NRSC. MinnPost.com caught up with him, and he reiterated that the case won't be over soon. "Election certificates are issued at the conclusion of the legal process, and the legal process...certainly won't be concluded at least until the Minnesota Supreme Court has a chance to review these issues," said Norm -- seeming to leave the door open to preventing a certificate from coming even after the state Supreme Court rules.

Watch Norm on Fox & Friends below:

I've long insisted that Coleman's goal here isn't so much to win his seat back but rather to serve as a tool of obstruction, delaying the inevitable seating of the US Senate's 59th Democrat. Senate Guru thinks Coleman may have something else up his sleeve as well:

Norm Coleman has personal debts (and will continue to grow that debt through additional legal bills) that may very well approach one million dollars.  Coleman turns 60 years old this August.  There is no way that Coleman can pay off his debts (including that 30-year mortgage for $775,000 that Coleman took out just two years ago) on a Senator's or Governor's salary.  [...]

...Coleman's real end game [is] not to win back his Senate seat or serve the public in any way.  Norm Coleman's end game is to intentionally force Minnesotans to be underrepresented in the U.S. Senate for as long as possible through endless appeals of the election result and parlay that into subsequently securing a high paying lobbyist job for a special interest that could care less what the average Minnesota family needs.

Hard to argue with that logic.

Update [2009-4-3 16:51:56 by Todd Beeton]:Sign the DSCC's petition calling on Norm to give it up.

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MN-Sen: 3-Judge Panel Orders 400 Absentee Ballots Opened

Some big news out of Minnesota today:

In a potentially decisive ruling, a panel of three judges today ordered up to 400 new absentee ballots opened and counted, far fewer than Republican Norm Coleman had sought in his effort to overcome a lead by DFLer Al Franken.

The ballots also appear to include many that Franken had identified as wrongly rejected as well as ballots that Coleman wanted opened.

Spokespersons for Coleman and Franken were not immediately available for comment.

But absentee ballots rejected during and after the November election became the centerpiece of Coleman's court challenge of the 225-vote lead that Franken obtained after a recount.

The ballots will be opened and counted next Tuesday, April 7. The consensus appears to be that there's no way Coleman can make up his deficit with these ballots alone. But my question is does this preclude Coleman from being able to appeal Franken's certification once those 400 ballots are counted as he was always intending to do? Surely no one expects Coleman to concede on April 7th?

Update [2009-3-31 17:53:12 by Todd Beeton]:Per Team Franken on a conference call a few minutes ago, Coleman would need 313 of the 400 absentee votes to beat Franken. And just to be clear, I'm all for announcing next Tuesday's result as a Franken victory and calling for him to be seated immediately. That's precisely how we should frame it. Eric Boehlert is right, Coleman's tactics are GOP sore loserdom at their finest and need to be called out as such, which the media isn't. Realistically though, I don't know that this changes anything vis a vis Coleman's "years" long appeal strategy, or does it?

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MN-Sen: Team Coleman Lowers Expectations To Nil, Says It's All About Appeal

Earlier this week, Norm Coleman's own lawyer, Joe Friedberg, went on local talk radio and essentially conceded Coleman's court loss. In fact, after all this litigation, after months of delay in the courts, after depriving Minnesota of representation in the US Senate, Friedberg said he believes that not only will Norm Coleman emerge from the court case the same way he went in: the loser, but also that Al Franken will have gained even more votes by the time all is said and done. Way to go, Joe!

TPM has it:

Friedberg: We've been trying this case with the appeal record in mind, and that's where we're going. And it's gonna be a very quick appeal, and then I'll know whether or not it worked.

Rosenbaum: Well, when you say a quick appeal, are you confident that you're gonna lose the case in front of the three-judge panel? By losing the case, I mean Norm ends up with less votes.

Friedberg: I think that's probably correct -- that Franken will still be ahead, and probably by a little bit more. But our -- you know, our whole argument was a constitutional argument. And it's an argument which is really suited for the Minnesota Supreme Court, not for the trial court. So we'll see whether we were right or not.

In other words: don't think Al Franken being declared the winner after the court rules is news, cuz it's not! In the end, you see, the point was never to win this case, it was to appeal upwards. But how far upwards?

Next stop MN Supreme Court, the appeal to which CQ Politics outlined last week.

The Coleman attorneys argue:

* That because the judges ruled certain categories of absentee ballots illegal, even though they were counted in the original count and recount, Franken's lead should be considered to have been built on "illegal" votes. They argue that the judges changed "the rules of the game after they've been played."

* That the Constitution's equal protection clause was violated when counties evaluated absentee ballots differently, resulting in certain categories of ballot being rejected in one county and accepted in another.

* That some ballots could have been wrongly rejected because the state database of registered voters was not fully updated.

Franken lawyer Marc Elias concedes that Franken would not be declared the winner until after the appeal to the MN Supreme Court plays out. When a ruling will come down and thus set that appeal process in motion is unclear.

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