Time for Coleman to Concede Election

Yesterday’s ruling by a three-judge panel that “The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the Nov. 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately” and that Al Franken “received the highest number of votes legally cast” and “is therefore entitled to receive the certificate of election” should, but likely won’t, put an end to the nightmare that was Minnesota’s Senate contest.  Rick Hasen judges the ruling to be “reasonable and conservative” and “the kind of opinion that is unlikely to be disturbed on appeal by either the Minnesota Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court.”

Coleman has said he’ll appeal yesterday’s ruling, which is what one would expect him to say.  But the fact of the matter is that, he would simply be delaying the inevitable by continuing to challenge.   This would serve to deny the Democrats an additional vote in the Senate, an understandable political goal for an embittered candidate, but one that comes at the steep price of denying Minnesotans half the representation to which the Constitution entitles them.   As such, it’s time for Coleman to throw in the towel and let Senator Franken go to work.

The process has been a frustrating one and supporters of Coleman, myself included, have reason to be unhappy with how we got here. The fact that Coleman had a 600-vote lead when the counting was done, had a 192 vote margin after the recount a month later,  and the appearance of numerous “found” Franken ballots (in fairness, he “lost” some, too) and the dubiousness of the hand recount process makes it especially hard to give up the fight.

Still, there’s no evidence that Franken or his people have done anything fraudulent.  The ebbs and flow in the vote count we’ve seen are the inevitable result of applying minute-by-minute scrutiny to an imperfect process run by human beings in a race that was, for all intents and purposes, a tie.  And, for demographic reasons, Democrats tend to fare better than Republicans in recounts.

We’ll never know whether Coleman or Franken actually got more votes.  Given the closeness of the race, a coin flip would have provided an equally satisfying and systematically valid measure.  But we have the process we have and Franken emerged the narrow winner.

It’s time for Coleman to end this.  And perhaps, in addition to finding employment that pays multiple times what United States Senators earn, he’ll lead an effort to reform Minnesota’s election system to avoid this kind of nightmare in the future.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Law and the Courts, Supreme Court, US Constitution, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I wish that more people realized that there will always be a margin of error (whatever the voting method is) and that when the margin of error exceeds the margin of victory there’s no way any result can be deemed fair or just.

    However, under Minnesota law as it stands it certainly looks as though Al Franken has been elected and he should be seated. The Minnesota legislature should change state law to provide for run-off elections under the circumstances that applied here.

  2. I understand the power politics at play… but after a certain point, you just make yourself look like an ass. Coleman passed that point a long time ago, and it’s time to give it up already.

  3. Floyd says:

    That first paragraph is RICH![lol]
    Franken won’t be the only buffoon, sitting in in a stolen senate seat.
    But will he be the only professional clown?
    At least we know that no shoes are too big for him to fill! HA!
    I guess this makes him the latest member “polit-burro caucus”?
    Now that we have mail-in voting we can make mock elections even easier. Say…
    “When voting is dead, only the dead will vote!”
    Sounds like a great slogan!

  4. Our Paul says:

    Nice post James, and I quite agree. It is time for Colman to face reality and gracefully bow out.

    If others have wondered, like I have, why Minnesota is still using paper ballots in this modern world, you provided the explanatory link. For your readership, it can be found under magic red “demographic reasons”, third paragraph from the end. Although the quoted article appears in the center left AlterNet, it is measured and nonpartisan. Well worth a read by those interested in this election.

    Despite your link to Rick Hasen (Election Law Blog) analysis of the judicial ruling, the bugaboo of “judicial activism” will be raised as the cry is onward and upward to the Supreme Court. Got to keep that base riled up!

    I do have the distinct impression that my subtle, ironic and at times garbled sense of humor does not strike a vibratory harmonic on your fun bone. Thus, I will not comment on the contrasting Colman and Franken photos at the top of your post. From my end of the Gaussian curve, they were brilliantly chosen, and indeed quite funny.

    As for Coleman’s ability to “ lead an effort to reform Minnesota’s election system to avoid this kind of nightmare in the future “, which closed your post, I have but a few cheap shots from the bleachers. One is that although he has spent but a few bucks on clothing, he has a surfeit of suits, and thus will be well dressed. Despite no evidence of deliberate voter fraud in the Minnesota election, we can expect this bête noire to be raised in the “reform” attempts.

  5. Triumph says:

    Still, there’s no evidence that Franken or his people have done anything fraudulent.

    Stuart Smalley is a liberal bum. Coleman must prevail–Smalley getting more votes than him is irrelevant. Hopefully Coleman will join Michelle Bachman in urging an armed revolution in Minnesota.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    re: Floyd | April 14, 2009 | 11:38 am

    How, exactly, was this election “stolen”…

  7. Floyd says:

    An Interested party;
    Poorly, man, poorly!

  8. An Interested Party says:

    Well, not all that poorly, as we are about to have Senator Franken in Washington…hmm, how many people is that going to drive crazy…

  9. Tlaloc says:

    I find it interesting (and noticed on TPM the same observation) that nobody else on the online right seems to have even whispered about this development. Considering how closely and invested places like RS and malkin were, they have let a huge (if totally expected) development pass without mention.

  10. Floyd says:

    Surely a hook for some, a slice for others, although (for the “hookers”) I suspect that would only be a putt!(grinz)

    BTW; Had it been done adroitly, it would not have taken so long or looked so clumsy!
    Thanks for recognizing it as a stolen seat…..

    “”Well, not all that poorly, as we are about to have Senator Franken in Washington….hmmm””

  11. An Interested Party says:

    Umm…Floyd, ya ever hear of sarcasm? You could even look it up…

  12. Brett says:

    Dave’s right – this situation was practically begging for a run-off election. Compare this to what happened when Saxby Chambliss had a close race; the whole thing was done in a month.

  13. Floyd says:

    Gee,I must be more subtle than I thought!