Even as the Republican argues to include ballots of voters who forged signatures and ballots they previously rejected
Plus: A bit more to bring you up to date with the latest...
By Brad Friedman on 2/11/2009, 2:23pm PT  

While Norm Coleman may believe that "God wants [him] to serve," the voters of MN, and a ruling yesterday from the 3-judge panel presiding over his U.S. Senate election contest, still seem to indicate otherwise.

Yes, at it turns out, something actually happened during Coleman's ongoing trial yesterday, and it resulted in still more votes for Al Franken.

That, and other late developments follow...

Franken Gets 24 More

A ruling from the court [PDF], found that some 24 Franken voters who'd filed to have their rejected absentee ballots counted, could, in fact, now have them counted. Eric Kleefeld of TPM does the heavy lifting for us on this one...

The Minnesota election court has now taken some kind of meaningful action, handing down a ruling [PDF] on a summary judgment motion that will now allow the counting of some --- but not all --- of a group of Franken-voters who filed a motion to have their rejected ballots counted. The ruling gives us some hints as to where things will go from here --- and it's not good news for Norm Coleman.

Out of over 60 voters who filed this motion, the court is ordering just 24 ballots to be counted at this time. The opinion lays out a pretty stringent standard for letting previously-rejected ballots in: It has to be demonstrated that the voter either fully complied with the relevant laws and procedures, and thus the rejection was wholly a clerical error, or that any actual non-compliance was credibly the fault of the election official.

An example of this second category would be if a voter pro-actively asked whether they were registered to vote, were told yes and provided an absentee ballot for a registered voter, but it turned out they really needed to re-register. This is a tough standard to meet, and will mean that the number of people who qualify for it will be a fairly limited number.
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So how does this relate to Norm Coleman's chances? He's currently fishing in a pool of nearly 4,800 rejected ballots, trying to get a bunch of them in. But this ruling seems to indicate he's not going to get very many of them in --- indeed, these 60 were some of Franken's best cases, and he's only scored on just over a third of them. Norm is casting a much wider net, so the success rate will probably be far lower.

The additional 24 votes (actually, just 23 for the moment, since a question still remains about one of them), will not be added to the official total immediately, as the Franken camp has declined to do so until after the trial has run its full course. So the official tally still remains Franken +225 over Coleman, for the moment.

Coleman mouthpiece/front-man Ben Ginsberg (he of FL 2000 Bush v. Gore "don't count any votes!" fame), tried to put a happy spin on the court's ruling. According to the Star-Tribune, "Ginsberg said the ruling also aided their efforts to have many more ballots counted and shows that the three-judge panel 'will allow in many more ballots as long as there is adequate proof of the voter's intent. ... We feel very good about what happened today.'"

Thinning the Ballot Herd

In what appears to be a move to cull down the number of rejected absentee ballots currently in contention, the judges have asked both sides to present arguments on Thursday, for or against the inclusion of such ballots, based on 19 different categories of rejected ballots. From the Strib...

Should a ballot be barred if it went to the wrong precinct? Should a ballot be excluded if cast by a non-registered voter? And what about an unsigned ballot where the instructions for signing were obstructed by a pre-printed address sticker?

Those are among 19 questions that District Judges Elizabeth Hayden, Kurt Marben and Denise Reilly want lawyers for Coleman and Franken to answer this week in a major development in a dispute over thousands of ballots that one side or the other wants counted.

Attorneys from both sides tried to spin the new development as a positive one for their respective client.

At the end of last week, the the "Ballot Universe" of rejected absentees which the judges are allowing to be examined for possible inclusion in the count, now stands at some 4,800 from Coleman, and about 800 from Franken.

Having it Both Ways

Franken's team was otherwise busy in court today, making the case that Coleman now wants hundreds of ballots counted that he had previously (and successfully) fought to keep from being counted during the post-election hand-count...back when Coleman thought he was winning.

Many of those voters, Franken attorneys made clear, whose ballots were rejected by Coleman before --- due to a dubious MN Supreme Court decision allowing veto power to the campaigns over whether some ballots got counted or not during the hand-count --- are now listed (disingenuously) on Coleman's website as being among those whom "the Franken campaign is seeking to disenfranchise." TPMDC has more on that.

Also related, Coleman's team continued again on Monday to try and convince the court that voters who forged signatures, should have their ballots counted anyway. Imagine what Fox and Sean and Rush, et al, would be saying right now, if a Democrat was trying to do something like that!

You can watch all of the proceedings, live as they happen, as streamed on the web by TheUptake.org. They also post key moments from the trial and attorney pressers, later in the day, for standalone archived viewing.

More recent BRAD BLOG coverage...

God Wants Coleman, Says Coleman!
The New 'Ballot Universe' as Week 2 Ends
Week 2 Begins with Speculation
'Slow Motion Comedy' on Days 4 & 5
Comedy of Errors on Days 2 & 3

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