Minnesota Court: Count Some Of Those Rejected Franken Voters — But Not All

February 10, 2009 7:45 a.m.

The Minnesota election court has now taken some kind of meaningful action, handing down a ruling on a summary judgment motion that will now allow the counting of some — but not all — of a group of Franken-voters who filed a motion to have their rejected ballots counted. The ruling gives us some hints as to where things will go from here — and it’s not good news for Norm Coleman.

Out of over 60 voters who filed this motion, the court is ordering just 24 ballots to be counted at this time. The opinion lays out a pretty stringent standard for letting previously-rejected ballots in: It has to be demonstrated that the voter either fully complied with the relevant laws and procedures, and thus the rejection was wholly a clerical error, or that any actual non-compliance was credibly the fault of the election official.

An example of this second category would be if a voter pro-actively asked whether they were registered to vote, were told yes and provided an absentee ballot for a registered voter, but it turned out they really needed to re-register. This is a tough standard to meet, and will mean that the number of people who qualify for it will be a fairly limited number.One person who didn’t make the cut: Dennis Peterson, the rural St. Louis County voter I spoke to a few weeks ago, and who helped me figure out a lot about how the campaigns have had so many opportunities to fish for their own voters, or to work to keep the other guy’s people out.

These 24 ballots should break almost entirely for Franken — indeed, 15 of them filed affidavits specifically saying they voted for him — so he does get something solid from this ruling. But again, the standards involved mean that it will take a long time to sort all this out.

So how does this relate to Norm Coleman’s chances? He’s currently fishing in a pool of nearly 4,800 rejected ballots, trying to get a bunch of them in. But this ruling seems to indicate he’s not going to get very many of them in — indeed, these 60 were some of Franken’s best cases, and he’s only scored on just over a third of them. Norm is casting a much wider net, so the success rate will probably be far lower.

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