United States Senate candidate Al Franken increases lead in recount

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

With 351 additional ballots counted, Al Franken has increased his lead over former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman from 225 to 312 votes, local news agencies reported Tuesday.

Al Franken
Image: Вени Марковски.
Norm Coleman U.S. Senate photo

In November, the results of the 2008 United States Senate election in Minnesota showed Republican Norm Coleman with a 215 vote lead over the Democratic challenger Franken. The close margin — less than 0.0075 percent — triggered an automatic recount which resulted in Franken leading by 225 votes, the total ratified by the Minnesota Canvasing Board January 5. The Coleman campaign filed a motion January 6 in court to block the certification of Franken's victory and prevent Franken from taking a seat in the United States Senate. On March 31, a three-judge panel hearing the case ordered 400 additional ballots be considered for counting.

State elections director Gary Poser read the results of 351 of those ballots to a hushed courtroom in St. Paul. Franken received 198 votes, while Coleman received 111. Third-party candidate Dean Barkley and other candidates got the 42 remaining votes.

Poser was supervised closely by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Franken lawyer Marc Elias and Coleman lawyer Tony Trimble.

With his case resting on the outcome of the unopened ballots, Coleman can no longer win mathematically, as he can now receive a maximum of 49 votes yet to be counted, which would not erase Franken's lead.

Franken's campaign said the result told the story.

"The result confirms what we knew going in, which is that more Minnesotans voted for Al Franken than Norm Coleman," Elias told reporters. "That was the case when we recounted the ballots the first time, and it's now the case after the election contest."

The Minnesota court can rule as soon as Wednesday and Coleman has ten days to appeal that ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Coleman campaign said it will file sooner than the ten-day time limit.

Coleman's campaign wants more than the 351 ballots added Tuesday counted. They have compiled a list of at least 1,300 ballots they want counted and Coleman legal adviser Ben Ginsberg was optimistic that more will be counted.

"It should have been about 10 times more than that," Ginsberg said. "We will be appealing this to the Minnesota Supreme Court."

Ginsberg went on to say that Tuesday's decision was not a large one.

"What happened today in the sphere of this election is really inconsequential," Ginsberg said. "What we've been saying is there's a much bigger pool of ballots that should be opened."

An election certificate requires both the signature of Ritchie and governor Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty hasn't said whether or not he would sign the certificate though he did say that if Coleman appeals the Minnesota Supreme Court decision, the governor would be unable to sign the certificate until any federal legal process is concluded.