Franken wins rulings, but more wrangling ahead

A couple key decisions about lost and improperly disqualified votes went in the Minnesota Democrat's favor Friday.

Published December 12, 2008 11:25PM (EST)

Friday was a good day for Al Franken.

Even with the recount in the Minnesota Senate race between Franken and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman complete, there have still been several issues of contention between the two campaigns. On Friday, Franken's side won a couple key battles.

First, there was the issue of a Minneapolis precinct that apparently lost 133 ballots. After concluding that these ballots would never be found, officials had two options: Proceed using the original, pre-recount numbers that the precinct reported on Election Night, or pretend that the missing votes were never cast. Franken’s campaign wanted the Minnesota Canvassing Board to certify the original election night tally, while Coleman’s didn’t even necessarily agree that these ballots existed, and disputed the contention that they should be counted. Score one (actually, more like 46) for the Democrat -- the board voted unanimously to go with the original numbers.

Then there was the question of what to do with an estimated 1,500 improperly rejected absentee ballots. Franken wanted them counted, and he won another unanimous ruling. Considering the slim margin between the two candidates, that decision could have an enormous impact. In response, the Coleman campaign announced that it will go to the state Supreme Court to seek a universal standard for deciding what constitutes a wrongly disqualified absentee ballot.

On top of all that, we're still waiting on a decision about the fate of about 4,000 ballots that were challenged by the campaigns during the recount process. Both camps have withdrawn hundreds of challenges as a gesture of good faith. Still, it feels like the canvassing board isn't exactly pleased with what went on during the recount. "This is about every Minnesotan's right to vote ... You'd have to be deaf and dumb, uh, intellectually challenged, not to hear people wondering if all these challenges are serious," board member Kathleen Gearin said. "I just hope both sides are respecting every single ballot they see. Please, please, be serious."

No matter what happens, it looks like Coleman’s going to get to know his lawyers pretty well. Between the canvassing board, the state Supreme Court, and an FBI ethics inquiry, he's going to be putting some lucky attorneys' children through college.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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2008 Elections Al Franken D-minn.