Minnesotans still do not know who they will send to the U.S. Senate in January – Al Franken or Norm Coleman. With a mere 206 votes standing between the two candidates, Minnesota law requires a recount which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, November 20, one day after the State Canvassing Board certifies the machine count.
Sitting on the Canvassing Board are Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D), two Republican Supreme Court Justices appointed by Governor Tim Pawlenty (Eric Magnusson and G. Barry Anderson), Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin and her deputy, Judge Edward Cleary who was appointed by Independent Governor Jesse Ventura in 2002. Ritchie explicitly stated that the Board would be acting in a nonpartisan way with regard to the recount.
In up to 120 different locations across the state, one representative from each of the campaigns will be observing as election officials hand count the ballots. Campaign representatives will have the authority to challenge decisions made by the counters. Any challenged ballots will then go to the State Canvassing Board for final determination. Ritchie hopefully expects the recount to be completed by December 5, and for the Board to begin considering challenged ballots on December 16.
According to Elections Director Gary Poser, the purpose of the recount is simply that – a recount. It is not to determine voter eligibility, the validity of absentee ballots, whether campaign laws were broken, or if election judges made mistakes at their polling places.
Even so, the Franken campaign believes that some absentee ballots have been unlawfully rejected. On November 13, Marc Elias, the campaign’s recount attorney, filed a lawsuit in conjunction with a request that the State Canvassing Board review rejected absentee ballots as part of the recount. For more information on the lawsuit, listen to Franken on Minnesota Public Radio.
In the meantime, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota has formally requested that the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee and the Minneapolis FBI investigate whether Coleman violated Senate ethics laws. The request comes on the heels of a Texas businessman’s lawsuit accusing Minnesotan Nasser Kazeminy of funneling money to Coleman’s wife through Hays, a Minnesota-based insurance company, and a second lawsuit filed against Kazeminy and his company, Deep Marine Technologies, with a similar complaint. Coleman received yet another blow yesterday when his lawsuit against the Franken campaign was thrown out of court and has now withdrawn his bid for Chairman of National Republican Senatorial Committee.
UPDATE November 18: The Canvassing Board has declared a 215-vote difference between the candidates with Coleman in the lead. The recount will begin Wednesday, November 19, and the Board has yet to decide whether rejected absentee ballots will be revisited.