Franken-Coleman Update, 02/13/09 (PM Edition): Still Not Buying It
One day after one of the judges of the Election Contest Court made it clear that she wasn’t buying the Coleman camp’s arguments with regard to counting absentee ballots, the rest of the court weighs in.
Guess what? They’re not buying it, either: They issued an order this afternoon that rejected 13 different categories of absentee ballots from being counted in the continuing court battle between Democrat Al Franken and former Republican Senator Norm Coleman. Coleman had wanted ballots in those categories to be counted; now they won’t be. This immediately chops about 1,300 ballots out of the 4,797 ballots that Coleman wanted counted because he said that they were wrongly rejected the first and second times around.
What’s more, the court concurred with Franken’s team — and with the previously-stated position of Team Coleman — that statutes and previous court rulings clearly hold that absentee ballot voting is a privilege, not a right. Why is this important? Because as was discussed a couple of weeks ago, if absentee voting is a privilege instead of a right, then Norm Coleman’s equal-protection claim — the heart of his election contest — is blown out of the water.
Even worse for Coleman, the ECC raised the burden of proof shouldered by the Coleman campaign in adding additional ballots: From here on out, Coleman attorneys must now prove that a ballot was actually legally cast, and not just that it was improperly rejected. This means that they must show evidence, among other things, that the voter did not submit an additional absentee ballot or arrive in person at the polling place on Election Day to vote. No more throwing ballots at the wall to see which ones stick.
Fingers crossed here, folks, but even with Norm’s inevitable appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court — which is his last stop, as he’s not going to be able to appeal it to the Federal level — this can only be dragged out for a few more weeks at the most. Al Franken could — and likely will — be seated in the Senate by St. Paddy’s Day.