Franken Goes to Court

Today Al Franken petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court for an order directing Governor Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to issue a certificate of election so he can be seated in the Senate. As we noted here, Pawlenty and Ritchie refused Franken’s request based on Minn. Stat. Sec. 204C.40:

No certificate of election shall be issued until seven days after the canvassing board has declared the result of the election. In case of a contest, an election certificate shall not be issued until a court of proper jurisdiction has finally determined the contest.

Given that an election contest is now in progress, that would seem dispositive, but Franken’s lawyer says “another portion of state law” requires the certificate to be issued. I don’t know what that provision might be.

Meanwhile, in a separate action which I assume has been venued before the three-judge contest panel, 60 voters from around the state are claiming that their absentee ballots were wrongly rejected and asking that they be opened and counted. The lawsuit is supported, and presumably organized, by the Franken campaign.

My understanding is that the counties identified around 1,350 “fifth pile” ballots that they thought had been mistakenly rejected and should now be counted. The Coleman and Franken campaigns agreed that around 400 of them were, indeed, defective and the counties were right to reject them. The remaining 950 or so have been counted. So these 60 are either some of the 400, about whom Franken has now changed his mind, or else they are ballots that were not included by counties in the original “fifth pile” process.

I think the latter supposition is more likely. Coleman has identified more than 600 absentee ballots, some of which were clearly proper and should have been counted, but for some reason were not put in the “fifth pile” by the relevant county. My guess is that Franken knows that most or all of these votes are ultimately going to be counted, so he is now looking for additional votes of his own.

It will be some months before the election contest can be completed.

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