A Crippling Blow for the Franken Campaign

Posted: Nov 26, 2008 11:22 AM
Minnesota's powerful canvassing board ruled 5-0 on a motion NOT to accept rejected absentee ballots in the closely-watched recount between GOP incumbent Norm Coleman and comedian-turned Democratic senatorial candidate Al Franken in a high-profile meeting.

Some Republicans worried Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and canvassing board member was not going to vote for the motion, but he did in the end.

Coleman is currently leading the recount by a narrow margin. This request to the board was considered a last-ditch effort by the Franken campaign to gain more ballots. Roughly 12,000 absentee ballots were rejected in Minnesota.

In the interim, both campaigns may increase the number of "challenged" ballots to try to put more votes in their column. Legal challenges are also expected by whoever loses the race after the final results are announced.

The board's five members are composed of two state supreme court justices, two district court judges and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

Secretary Ritchie initiated a discussion to have legal representatives from the Coleman and Franken campaigns to “get together and find a way to reduce those number of ballots challenged.”

"I have a big question about more work for the county election officials," Richtie said.

All the board members were concerned about the burden of potentially reviewing all 12,000 rejected ballots. There seemed to be unanimous support for the campaigns to scale requests for review. State Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnusan said, “Both campaigns have a responsibility to be thoughtful in the challenges they raise and speaking simply on my own behalf, the fewer challenges I have to look at the more carefully I will consider those challenges."

Supreme Court Judge G Barry Anderson said the ballots should be rejected, citing state statute that “does not directly grant the board to include rejected ballots.”

 “The relief that has been requested by this board has been extraordinary,” Anderson added.

 Edward Cleary of the Second Judicial Court was unpersuaded by Anderson's statements, but ultimately voted for his motion. “We are not in a court room and we have to keep that in mind…although I agree there is no specific authority for us to do that.”

Judge Kathleen Gearin of Ramsey County argued that the question to be settled wasn’t whether or not the ballots should be counted, but whose decision it should be to determine whether the rejected ballots should be counted.