After one of the closest Senatorial election contests in U.S. history, on Monday January 5th the Minnesota canvassing board certified the final recounted vote tally giving democratic challenger Al Franken a 225 vote lead over Republican Norm Coleman. Later that day Norm Coleman vowed he would fight on and said his campaign would file an election contest lawsuit in the coming days. The next day Norm Coleman did just that. Norm Coleman's lawyers will bring their case before a three-judge panel at the Ramsey County District Court on January 26th and it is expected to potentially drag out the final result of the election for another couple of months. Norm Coleman is hoping his team of lawyers can end on a better note than the Detroit Lion's historic and first ever completely winless season, posting an 0-16 record. To date Norm's legal team is 0-6 against Al Franken's legal team.
The lawsuit parade by Norm Coleman started on October 30th shortly before the election when he filed a lawsuit against his opponent Al Franken over what he deemed defamation of character. The Huffington Post reported that Norm Coleman had filed three other lawsuits against political opponents in the waning hours of his previous elections. This included a 2002 lawsuit against the late Senator Paul Wellstone accusing him of distorting Coleman's stance on social security. None of these lawsuits resulted in favorable decisions for Norm Coleman and almost all of them were categorically thrown out by the judges. But as the Detroit Lions continued to play every Sunday looking for their first NFL win, Coleman continued the string of successive court losses looking for his first win in court. On Saturday November 8th Norm Coleman filed a last-minute lawsuit in Ramsey county with the intent of stopping the statewide mandated recount. The suit was dismissed the same day.
On December 10th Norm Coleman's legal team called for 133 ballots that apparently went missing in a Minneapolis precinct to not be a part of the ongoing recount between Coleman and Al Franken. Two days later in an unanimous decision, the Minnesota State Canvassing Board denied Coleman's effort to disenfranchise 133 voters in Minneapolis. In addition, the board unanimously recommended that counties open and start counting absentee ballots that had been deemed improperly rejected by county officials.
On December 15th Norm Coleman went to court once again and filed suit with the Minnesota Supreme Court to effectively overturn the decision of the bipartisan state canvassing board to have incorrectly rejected absentee ballots counted. On December 18th the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the wrongly rejected absentee ballots must be counted in the U.S. Senate recount. The Supreme Court sided with the canvassing board and ordered that all local elections officials go through all rejected absentee ballots and identify any that were not rejected for one of the only 4 legal reasons there are to reject a ballot. They did this and found over 1,300 wrongly rejected absentee ballots.
On December 19th Norm Coleman again filed a lawsuit with the Minnesota Supreme Court alleging that numerous absentee ballots were double-counted. Because no evidence demonstrating that this in fact happened was presented to the Supreme Court, they denied Coleman any relief in the lawsuit on Christmas eve.
The Coleman campaign on December 31st sought to stop the ongoing process in which improperly rejected absentee ballots would be reviewed and counted. Coleman's attorney Tony Trimble claimed in a letter that the process "will yield an invalid and unreliable election result." In addition, Norm Coleman's campaign asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to revise its decision about rejected absentee ballots. In the end the counting of the improperly rejected absentee ballots was not stopped and ultimately all the submitted absentee ballots, that were mutually agreed upon by both campaigns, were counted and gave Al Franken the final 225 vote lead.
All through the recount process the Norm Coleman legal team piled up one loss after another going 0-6 against the Al Franken legal team over a period of just over 2 months.
The newest and most serious lawsuit by Norm Coleman is what is called an election contest lawsuit and hopes to effectively reverse the certified vote tally that currently has Al Franken leading by 225 votes. Norm Coleman's current lawsuit contains a number of different points and in many cases rehashes what was already previously filed and defeated in court. Almost all of Coleman's previous court defeats were because the courts did not believe there was enough evidence for what Coleman was claiming. Most experts agree that even if on the slim chance that Norm Coleman were to win on every point he would still fall short a few dozen votes.
One of Coleman's claims in the lawsuit is that many precincts had more votes than voters. According to Coleman's election contest filing his definition of more votes than voters is that there were more votes counted for Franken in the recount than were counted on election night. This definition is hardly nefarious and in contrast to the propaganda like spin intended to illicit cries of voter fraud, it does not by itself provide any proof of voter fraud as votes that were originally not counted because of machine error, election official error, or even first counted as overvotes or undervotes now got counted in the recount. Their definition of "more votes than voters" is in fact completely misleading and false. And of course those wrongly rejected absentee ballots that weren't counted on election day were added in the recount and none of the absentee voters would be counted in the voter roll signatures on election day. Ironically, Coleman benefited from those too and Al Franken could easily argue that their were many precincts were Coleman gained votes during the recount.
Apparently Norm Coleman thinks it is totally appropriate to claim that the additional votes for Al Franken that occurred from the more accurate hand recount should not be counted. Thinking this strategy even has a chance is probably why public support for Norm Coleman is rapidly waning and giving way to cries that he should concede or risk being labeled a sore loser, cry baby, and whiner.
Die-hard Republicans and right-wing news outlets overlook their own hypocrisy stemming from the 2000 election and continue their propaganda drive calling the recount "dubious" and accusing Al Franken of stealing the election. In reality, this could not be further from the truth. The Senate recount in Minnesota has been hailed as one of the most transparent and fair recounts in our nation's history. The canvassing board was a bipartisan board containing a couple of judges appointed by Minnesota's current Republican governor Tim Pawlenty and both campaigns have praised Mark Ritchie for his fair selection of this board.
Ironically Norm Coleman, who also participated in the chorus of cat calls aimed at a shaming Al Gore into conceding tried the very same thing against Al Franken the day after the unofficial election tallies showed that he had a 215 vote lead on Al Franken. Nevermind that the closeness of the election results triggered an automatic statewide recount. In Norm Coleman's Nov. 5th statement, now immortalized by YouTube, he was asked what he would do if he were in Al Franken's shoes and behind in the count and he said he would do the right thing and drop out. "I would step back", he said. "I just think the healing process is so important, the possibility of making a change of this magnitude in the voting system we have is so remote."
So when Norm Coleman announced on January 6th, after the vote tally was certified as complete and gave Al Franken a 225 vote lead, that he would not concede and would instead file an "election contest" lawsuit the media outlets, bloggers, and even mainstream newsrooms were quick to remind Norm Coleman what he said in public only a few months previously.
Analysis of the Star Tribune article reporting on Norm Coleman's decision to file an election contest lawsuit reveals that public support has dramatically turned against Norm Coleman. An analysis of the 791 comments posted to this article revealed that only 15% of the readers felt Norm Coleman should fight on. A stunning 84% of the readers thought Norm Coleman should do the right thing for Minnesotans and concede.
One GOP heavyweight, former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, has also weighed in and urged Coleman to step down. Carslon stated that he believes Coleman will ultimately lose this election contest lawsuit.