Another ruling, another appeal in Minnesota


A three-judge panel in Minnesota has ruled that Democrat Al Franken was the winner of the Minnesota U.S. Senate race, but Republican Norm Coleman will appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. From Politico:

A Minnesota court ruled Monday night that Democrat Al Franken has defeated Republican Norm Coleman and should be granted the election certificate that will allow him to take his seat in the U.S. Senate.

The Coleman camp immediately vowed to appeal.

"More than 4,400 Minnesotans remain wrongly disenfranchised by this court’s order," Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said in a statement. "By its own terms, the court has included votes it has found to be ‘illegal’ in the contest to remain included in the final counts from Election Day, and equal protection and due process concerns have been ignored. For these reasons, we must appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court so that no voter is left behind."

The three-judge panel rejected Coleman’s equal-protection arguments, saying that "errors or irregularities identified by contestants in the general election do not violate the mandates of equal protection."

Speaking to reporters outside his home in Minneapolis with his wife, Franni, by his side, Franken said he was "honored and humbled by this great victory" and that the "long delay of seating" Minnesota’s next senator comes at a time "when our state badly needs help from Washington."

Franken called on Coleman "to allow me to get to work for the people of Minnesota as soon as possible."

Senate Democrats, though, are willing to give Coleman one final appeal:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement late Monday night that, while the court said that Franken is the winner, Coleman is entitled to take his case to the state Supreme Court. "If he does so, we look forward to a prompt decision from that court so that Gov. Pawlenty can issue an election certificate and we can finally bring an end to an episode that has left the people of Minnesota without full representation for too long and has cost taxpayers too much money," Reid said.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune says the panel’s ruling Monday doesn’t bode well for Coleman’s chances:

"It is the kind of opinion that is unlikely to be disturbed on appeal by either the Minnesota Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court," said Richard Hasen, an expert on election law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "The opinion considers the major arguments made by Coleman and rejects them in a detailed and measured way."

Added University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs: "This is judicial speak for ‘nothing here,’ and it is most definitely aimed at the appeals process. It’s a signal that they are supremely unimpressed by the Coleman case." ….

The judges said Coleman, trailing Franken by 225-votes after the recount, wanted the panel to ignore Minnesota election law and adopt a more lenient standard allowing illegal absentee ballots to be counted.

The panel was blunt in how it dismissed Coleman claims. A cornerstone of his case was the argument that the judges should count absentee ballots they had deemed illegal during the trial because similar ones had been accepted on Election Day and during the recount.

The panel wrote that Coleman’s position would "lead to an absurd result. Following [Coleman’s] argument to its conclusion, the court would be compelled to conclude that if one county mistakenly allowed felons to vote, then all counties would have to count the votes of felons."

Moreover, the panel said that Coleman failed to show that "alleged errors or irregularities regarding the treatment of absentee ballots affected the outcome of the election."

The panel took aim at some Coleman claims that will likely figure in any appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court or federal court system. One of those was his argument that widespread problems — including varying practices by counties in determining which votes to count — denied many people their right to vote.

"There is no evidence of a systemic problem of disenfranchisement in the state’s election system, including in its absentee balloting procedures," the panel wrote.

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