Senator Al Franken
A ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court has all but officially made Al Franken the winner in the Senate recount.
A state Supreme Court ruling Wednesday narrowed the options available for Sen. Norm Coleman to erase a slim lead held by DFLer Al Franken in the Minnesota election dispute, and Coleman’s campaign threatened a court battle that could leave the Senate seat vacant for a month.
The Supreme Court denied a bid by the Coleman campaign to prevent local and state canvassing boards from tallying votes that the incumbent says may have been counted twice. Most of the votes at issue are from DFL strongholds. The justices said the campaign’s claim of double-counted ballots is better resolved in a court hearing where evidence can be presented, instead of by canvassing boards.
I have no opinion on the merits of the ruling but this leaves Coleman’s last recourse as a challenge which, as Eric Kleefeld puts it, has a “burden of proof that heavily favors the certified winner.” Unless Coleman can prove that ballots were in fact counted twice — and I have no idea how he’d do that — Franken will be the winner. Nate Silver notes that, “while it is nearly guaranteed that there were at least some instances of double-counting, the same discrepancies could be explained by other phenomena, an Coleman’s case relied on what might could best be described as circumstantial evidence.” (Scott Johnson provides additional background on the statutory law.)
As I’ve noted since this farce began, the race is a tie and none of us knows whether Coleman or Franken truly got more legitimate votes. Given that Coleman “won” on the initial count, though, his supporters will quite reasonably feel as if the election was stolen from them in a bizarre, dubious process.
We have to have a better system than this.