Minn. court deals blow to Coleman's hopes

A ruling says only 400 new absentee ballots will be counted, far fewer than the Republican wanted and probably not enough for him to retake the lead.

Published March 31, 2009 9:45PM (EDT)

The seemingly interminable contest between now-former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Democratic challenger Al Franken might just have gotten closer to an end. The court hearing Coleman's challenge to the results of the recount held in the election issued what might be the decisive ruling of the case Tuesday afternoon.

In its opinion, the three-judge panel ordered as many as 400 new absentee ballots to be opened and counted. That's not as many as the Coleman team had been asking for, and given that the Republican currently trails by 225 votes, it seems like it won't be enough for him to retake the lead he had after Election Night. According to the Star Tribune, many of the 400 ballots are ones the Franken campaign wanted opened, and about half are from areas he won -- that will make it even more difficult for Coleman to make up the difference between himself and Franken, obviously.

The ballots will be opened and counted next Tuesday. There's no official word from the Coleman campaign yet, though they have previously indicated they would appeal a loss at this level.

Update: Ben Ginsberg, Coleman's lead attorney, says the ruling "gives us no choice but to appeal that order to Minnesota Supreme Court." He didn't say whether they'd be willing to go to the U.S. Supreme Court from there.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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