Declaring Victory Open Thread

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MN-Sen: Franken Two Big Steps Closer To Being Senator

I just watched the tail end of the MN Canvassing Board's meeting during which they certified Al Franken as the winner of the recount and brought some finality to the drawn out drama that has been the Minnesota Senate race. As I wrote earlier, this now opens the door to Norm Coleman's inevitable court challenges, but earlier today, the Minnesota Supreme Court put the kibosh on Coleman's most promising challenge, at least his hope of challenging the result pre-certification.

From TPM:

Norm Coleman's last chance to stop Al Franken from winning the Minnesota recount today just came to an end, with the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously denying his lawsuit seeking to count an additional 650 absentee ballots that local election officials had thrown out.

The court's ruling upheld the local officials, and told Coleman in no uncertain terms that if he wants to continue to fight this one out, it will have to be in a post-recount election contest.

And that is exactly what he intends to do. From a statement:

"Today's ruling, which effectively disregards the votes of hundreds of Minnesotans, ensures that an election contest is now inevitable. The Coleman campaign has consistently and continually fought to have every validly cast vote counted, and for the integrity of Minnesota's election system, we will not stop now."

Team Franken, for its part, is declaring victory.

"Today, the Supreme Court once again affirmed the validity of the rules under which this recount was conducted. Minnesotans have waited a long time for a winner to be declared in this race, and today, with the last attempt to halt the counting process now having failed, Al Franken will be declared the winner."

I think the only question that remains is how Norm Coleman is going to lose: ugly or graciously.

Update [2009-1-5 16:14:10 by Todd Beeton]:Harry Reid calls for Coleman to concede and Dick Morris, via e-mail, is calling the certification of Franken "an outrage!" Which makes it all the sweeter.

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MN-Sen: Al Franken To Be Declared Winner Today

The Minnesota State Canvassing Board will meet today and certify Al Franken as the victor in the Minnesota Senate race.

The board was to meet Monday and was expected to declare which candidate received the most overall votes from nearly 3 million ballots cast. The latest numbers showed Franken, a Democrat, with a 225-vote lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

That won't spell the end of the drama, however. Expect Coleman to lose ugly:

But after the announcement, there will be a seven-day waiting period before an election certificate is completed. If any lawsuits are filed during that waiting period, certification is conditional until the issue is settled in court.

Coleman, who led Franken on election night, hasn't ruled out a lawsuit challenging the results, claiming there were irregularities that gave Franken an unfair advantage.

The Coleman campaign also has a petition pending before the state Supreme Court to include 650 ballots that it says were improperly rejected but not forwarded by local officials to St. Paul for counting.

But despite any legal wrangling Coleman may resort to, Chuck Schumer's statement yesterday strikes the right chord vis a vis who the next Senator from Minnesota will be:

"With the Minnesota recount complete, it is now clear that Al Franken won the election. The Canvassing Board will meet tomorrow to wrap up its work and certify him the winner, and while there are still possible legal issues that will run their course, there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota. Even if all the ballots Coleman claims were double counted or erroneously added were resolved in his favor, he still wouldn't have enough votes to win. With the Senate set to begin meeting on Tuesday to address the important issues facing the nation, it is crucial that Minnesota's seat not remain empty, and I hope this process will resolve itself as soon as possible."

You can watch the Canvassing Board's certification meeting today at 2:30pm local time over at The Uptake.

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MN-Sen: Franken By 225

Tonight's big news out of Minnesota: with the recount over, the unofficial count has Al Franken ahead of Norm Coleman by 225 votes.

From The Star Tribune:

Norm Coleman's term as a U.S. senator ended at noon Washington time on Saturday, and by evening his hopes of winning a second term had been dealt an expected but serious setback as state officials counted previously rejected absentee ballots in St. Paul.

DFLer Al Franken held an unofficial lead of 225 votes over Coleman as this edition of the Star Tribune went to press, according to a newspaper tally of the officials' count of the absentee ballots. Franken had led unofficially by 49 votes going into the day and gained a net 176 votes from the new ballots.

Next step: Coleman will challenge Franken's victory in court.

From TPM:

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.

So what does this mean? Minnesota law is unique in that it prohibits the issuing of an official certificate of election until the legal challenges are all resolved. Unless Coleman backs down and concedes defeat, he could bottle up a Franken win for weeks or even months, depending on how appeals go -- even though it appears to be nearly impossible that he could ever succeed.

The Republicans in the Senate have vowed to block the seating of Franken provisionally. I expect this result today will disabuse the Democrats of any notion to do otherwise with Coleman. Anyone want to take bets on how long Minnesota will have just 1 Senator?

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All I want for Christmas is verified voting

Seven weeks after election day, there is still no declared winner in Minnesota's Senate race. If the frequent updates on the MyDD front page aren't enough to satisfy your Minnesota recount fix, WineRev's Daily Kos diaries will tell you everything you need to know about what's been going on.

Norm Coleman has been in court trying to prevent ballots that might give Al Franken the lead from being counted, and after Franken did take a narrow lead, Coleman's team was back in court looking for other ways to subtract from Franken's total. Imagine how much more contentious this process would be if Minnesota did not use paper ballots in every county. Less than one one-hundredth of a percent of the vote separates Franken from Coleman. If touchscreen voting machines had been involved in any way, large numbers of people would surely believe the election had been rigged in favor of whoever came out ahead.

Mark Halvorson of Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota published this piece on what has worked well during the Minnesota recount, and how the system could still be improved.

Iowa had more state legislative races decided by less than 1 percent of the vote this year than in any other election I can remember. Fortunately, the state legislature heeded Secretary of State Mike Mauro's call to require optical scanner machines with paper ballots in every county, and Governor Chet Culver signed that bill into law this spring. Otherwise the legitimacy of these extremely close races could have been questioned.

As this map at VerifiedVoting.org shows, Minnesota is one of 18 states that has mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records. Iowa is one of 13 states that require paper ballots, but without mandatory audits to make sure the scanners are producing accurate counts.

Election integrity advocates in Iowa are encouraging Mauro to ask the legislature to take the next step toward "verified voting" (mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records). That would allay fears about malfunctions or tampering with the optical scanners as they count the votes.

Some other states have a lot further to go. In New Jersey, advocates are still working toward mandatory paper ballots, while some politicians want to take the penny-wise, pound-foolish path of retrofitting touchscreen machines to print out paper receipts.

Congress has so many huge issues to tackle in the next two years, but I sincerely hope they will pass a federal law to ensure that all Americans will be able to vote with paper ballots. This page at VerifiedVoting.org summarizes all the relevant pending legislation at the federal and state levels.

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