Two Important Decisions by the State Canvassing Board Go His Way...
LATE UPDATE: Coleman Camp 'Desperate,' Headed to Court for FL 2000-style Attempt to Stop Ballot Counting, Says Franken Camp
By Brad Friedman on 12/12/2008, 4:35pm PT  

[Ed Note: Now updated at bottom, with Coleman's attempts to have the state Supreme Court stop the counting, ala Bush/GOP's FL 2000 playbook.]

We've been on the road for several weeks, and haven't been able to report on the day-to-day details of the hand count of the razor-thin U.S. Senate race in Minnesota between incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and challenger Al Franken (D). Happily, the mainstream coverage of the counting has been pretty good (surprisingly so), so we haven't felt the need to jump in to fill in the untold stories.

But today is an important one, and has resulted in two very key wins today at the State Canvassing Board for Franken, who has recently claimed that he's up by just 4 votes in the race, presuming that the thousands of challenged ballots (by both sides) are decided by the board the way his team believes they will be.

As of this afternoon, things are looking good --- very good --- for Franken...

From TPM:

[T]he Minnesota state canvassing board is meeting today to make some crucial decisions on the Senate race recount. Already this morning the board has unanimously decided to ask local election boards to count an estimated 1,600 absentee ballots that were disqualified by clerical error, which is expected to boost significantly Franken's prospects of catching Coleman in the recount.

TPM's additional reporting notes that while the state canvassing board --- made up of Republicans, Democrats, and independents --- can't out and out order counties to count the inappropriately rejected absentee ballots, most counties are now doing so, and those that refuse to do so may find themselves in court.

TPM's conclusion is a very positive result for Franken...

Because of all that, it seems very likely that the vast majority of these ballots will be counted before this is over --- and it could possibly seal the deal for Franken. Pre-election polling showed him winning the overall pool of absentee ballots by a solid margin, so it seems pretty reasonable to assume that the newly-counted votes will break for Al. If that proves to be correct --- and if Norm Coleman is unable to stop it through further litigation --- Franken will probably pull ahead of Coleman and win the election.

The other major decision made by the canvassing board today is that 133 ballots from a Minneapolis precinct that were counted on Election Night, but have since been misplaced, will be included in the final totals "by going back to the recorded Election Night vote totals for this precinct, sparing Al the loss of a net 46 votes."

Both decisions, of course, allow Coleman plenty of reason to go to court and try to have the decisions overturned, or even have the election results thrown out entirely.

We'd not put it past him to do exactly that, even though the GOP --- which has institutionally been declaring from the jump, without any evidence whatsoever, that Franken has been attempting to "steal the election" --- has long been claiming that Franken would try to have the courts decide the race rather than the people.

But the Republicanists frequently charge others with doing exactly what they intend to do, so, at this point, you can rest assured that they'll be in court pronto, without apology, if they feel it may help their case. The same is true for Franken of course, but so should it be, if, in fact, any process in the election has violated the rule of law or disenfranchised voters.

Our money has long been on Franken to win this one after all is said and done. And it still is.

UPDATE: Like clockwork, the Coleman camp, now said to be 'desperate because they know they are going to lose,' according to Franken's people during a late afternoon press conference today, are heading to court, and pulling a page straight from the GOP's "successful" FL 2000 play book:

Franken's lead recount lawyer Marc Elias said to not believe the Coleman camp's spin that they're not trying to stop the vote count. "But just read the papers that they file when they file them, and don't look past what they file," he said. "They are seeking an injunction, they are seeking to stop counties from counting lawful ballots."

Elias rebutted the Coleman camp's legal arguments that the sorting of rejected absentees will lack uniform standards, pointing out that the canvassing board handed down a clear procedure under state law.

"The cold reality of where they stand in this count is upon them, and they are desperate to do something to keep these ballots from being counted," Elias added, according to AP late tonight.

And Eric Kleefeld further reports on the Coleman court filing:

It's as yet unknown when when the state Supremes might rule on this, but it doesn't seem too likely that the court will shut down the count. Two of the judges, both of them GOP appointees, are also members of that very canvassing board that voted unanimously to allow the count today. Even if they recused themselves, it's hard to imagine the other judges contradicting them in the middle of an ongoing count.

Bad news for Coleman. Good news for MN's voters, all of whom deserve to have their votes counted and counted accurately.

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