Coleman vs Franken: 19 Ways to Reject a Ballot
by CA Pol Junkie
You know how on TV, the court case is always finished in an hour? Not so much in Minnesota's Election Contest Court, where 2008's last Senate race is being decided. Coleman is down by 225 votes, and his argument is that there are enough wrongfully rejected absentee ballots to swing the election to him if those ballots are counted. Ballots have been presented to witnesses one at a time under direct examination by Coleman lawyers and in cross-examination by Franken's. This process has been going on for a couple weeks and at this rate it would take many weeks more to examine all of the 5,088 ballots (thanks to The Uptake) which may be presented as evidence.
Although the Court is charged with a blind and methodical analysis of the evidence, it's not hard to do the math to see if Coleman has a chance. The Uptake figured that if all the rejected absentee ballots were accepted and voted like the rest of the counties they are from, Coleman would actually gain 68 votes on Franken. Of course, that's alot less than Franken's lead. Only a small percentage of those ballots will end up getting counted, however, and Franken won the last batch of un-rejected absentee ballots by nearly 20%, so needless to say Coleman is toast. As long as the election contest continues, however, state law prevents Franken from serving in the Senate unless the Supreme Court unexpectedly rules in favor of Franken that he be seated provisionally while the contest continued.
The Court, having seen hundreds of ballots, decided that it has a pretty good feel for what is going on. Although there are four reasons why an absentee ballot can be rejected, the Court found that the various means by which a voter or election official can get something wrong led them to put the rejected absentee ballots into 19 categories. The Court then ordered each campaign to submit briefs saying which categories of ballots should be counted.
Not surprisingly, the Coleman and Franken teams did not agree on which categories to count. Coleman wants to count 17 categories, while Franken wants to count 2. Both sides will argue their case before the Court Thursday. The Court has thus far allowed ballots where either 1) the voter did everything they were supposed to or 2) the irregularity in the absentee ballot was caused by election officials and not the voter. Then there's the little matter of classifying all the contested absentee ballots, but that's a fight for another day.
The Uptake does their quick analysis of the 19 categories here. Based on the Court's tendencies to require strict adherence to the law on the part of voters but allowing leniency in case of election official error, my guess would be that all or part of categories 2, 4, 7, and 16 would be counted. Thursday's arguments should provide a rare moment of drama before the Court.