What happened in Minnesota

Minnesota’s excruciatingly close Senate election between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and former unfunny humorist Al Franken is in the final innings of the post-election proceedings. Franken is of course a left-liberal Democrat about whom I have nothing good to say.

In June 2005, before Franken moved back to Minnesota and declared his candidacy for the Senate seat, I attended a Democratic fundraiser at which Franken was the featured attraction. I provided an account of the evening and tried to assess Franken’s possible strenghts as a candidate in “Saturday Night Live with Al Franken.”

The post-election proceedings have come in three stages, beginning with the canvas that narrowed Senator Coleman’s lead from around 700 to 215 votes. The narrowness of the margin dictated a hand recount under Minnesota law. After the recount Franken emerged with a 225-vote lead. The recount was the second stage of the post-election proceedings.

Senator Coleman challenged the result of the recount in the election contest. The election contest is the third and final phase of the post-election proceedings. It is a judicial proceeding conducted before a panel of three state judges appointed in this case by Minnesota Supreme Court Justice (and NFL Hall of Famer) Alan Page. The losing party has the right of appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The election contest is nearing its conclusion. Yesterday Franken picked up an additional 89 votes as 351 previously rejected absentee ballots were opened and counted. Senator Coleman has vowed to appeal the judgment that will be rendered in the election contest to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Senator Coleman argues that equal protection requires the counting of approximately 4,000 additional rejected absentee ballots as a matter of constitutional law.

This morning NRO has posted my column “Minnesota 101.” In the column I try to trace events from the conclusion of the canvas to the opening of the 351 previously rejected absentee ballots yesterday.

My purpose in writing the column was to provide a personal perspective on the post-election proceedings. Contrary to some of the conservative commentary on the recount, I have come to the conclusion that Franken didn’t steal the election, although it is not clear to me that he won it fair and square either. In the column I try to explain why, summarizing observations I have made here over the past few months.

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