Earlier this morning, right after the Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Norm Coleman’s appeal of his defeat in the Senate election trial, the attorneys for the two sides — and Norm himself — briefly took questions from reporters. The question on everybody’s mind: Is this finished yet?
“We’ve come to an obviously critical point in this process,” said Coleman. “It’s more than about process, it’s been about the opportunity to ensure that over 4,000 Minnesotans whose votes have not been counted to have their votes counted. I don’t know what it’s in those ballots, but if those 4,000 voters had lived in a different area, their votes would have been counted.”
Note Coleman’s claim that he does not know what’s in the 4,000 rejected ballots (out of about 11,000 total) that his campaign selected. No rational observer of this process would believe such a claim if it had come from either side — both campaigns clearly engaged in a thorough process of cherry-picking, selecting ballots where they either knew for sure that it was a vote for themselves, or had a decent idea based on geography. Coleman’s legal team even made a reference to geography in one of their filings.A reporter asked Coleman whether he’ll appeal to federal courts if he loses here. He’s apparently going to wait and see. “Again, let’s see what the court does,” Coleman replied. “Let’s see what the decision is. At this point my firm hope, fervent hope, is to enfranchise over 4,000 more Minnesotans.”
Another reporter asked: So how long will this all take? “I think the question, the most important question is, how long it will take to ensure that we enfranchise 4,000 Minnesotans?” He said. “Those of us who have had the opportunity to govern, we govern with the consent of the governed. And it’s difficult to say you have that consent when you have a race that is separated by a few hundred votes, and 4,000 votes have not been counted.”
Remember: The actual number here is that roughly 11,000 votes have not been counted. The 4,000 are from the Coleman camp’s selected list.
On the question of whether to appeal, Coleman’s lead attorney Joe Friedberg said: “You never, while you have a case pending in front of one court, say you’re going to appeal. That’s a type of attempted intimation that nobody should engage in, and I never do.”
Friedberg said that the remaining ballots that should be let in are from pro-Coleman areas, due to previous lax standards in Democratic areas. “It’s really strange that the counties with the resources,” he said, “like Minneapolis, Ramsey County, St. Louis County, were the ones that let the ballots in, while the good old conservative Republican counties followed the rules.”
Friedberg also acknowledged that the Coleman camp knew they’d lost the trial itself a while ago, and were planning for this very appeal. “Our case is in the offers of proof,” he said — referring to attempted submissions of evidence that are not accepted by the trial court, but are saved for an appeal. “The offers of proof were put in from about the 15th of February on, because from the 15th of February on we were trying the case to this court, not the trial court.”
The bottom line: Friedberg wants the state Supremes to remand this case back to the trial court, with instructions to count more ballots under a substantial compliance standard.
Finally, lead Franken lawyer Marc Elias was much more subdued, seeming to present an attitude of cautious optimism.
“I do think it’s fair to say that with a ruling from the state Supreme Court, we will be at the end of this process.” He said that the state laws provided for a recount, which Franken won, and the election contest trial, which Franken won, and now to this appeal. “That should bring us to the end of the state court process, and hopefully for the end of press conferences like this.”
A reporter asked if this is truly the end — will Franken get his certificate, and will the Senate seat him? “I think that the court will do its job in reviewing the trial court and issuing its ruling, and the Senate will do its constitutional obligations as well,” said Elias. He later added: “I am confident that when the state court process is concluded, and there is a certificate of election, that Al Franken will be seated.”
(Special thanks to The Uptake for carrying the pressers.)