Coleman, Franken Clash Again Over Recount

Posted December 29, 2008 at 6:41pm

A high-stakes meeting at the Minnesota secretary of state’s office on how to count wrongfully rejected absentee ballots ended in chaos Monday night after attorneys representing Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and challenger Al Franken (D) disagreed on which ballots should be included in the recount. The state Supreme Court has ordered the campaigns to reach agreement on a process to determine the wrongfully rejected absentee ballots and mandated that local officials turn in said ballots by 11:59 p.m. on Friday. Local county officials are scheduled to sort these ballots on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and the state canvassing board is scheduled to begin the public counting of these votes on Jan. 5. Franken leads Coleman by 46 votes — a margin that will likely change once the improperly rejected absentee ballots are added to the recount. Franken’s campaign believes the absentee ballots will break for their candidate, though Coleman’s campaign publicly disputes that assertion. Local officials determined this weekend that 1,346 absentee ballots had been wrongfully rejected — a pool of votes that the Franken campaign said was acceptable to add to the recount. At the meeting Monday afternoon with the secretary of state, Coleman’s campaign suggested a smaller set of wrongfully rejected ballots be counted, plus additional ballots added to the list. “Today, the Coleman campaign, which has since day one objected to the counting of improperly rejected absentee ballots, made clear they have little interest in participating in the process set forth by the Supreme Court to ensure that Minnesotans are not improperly disenfranchised,” Franken attorney David Lillehaug said. “We are almost at the finish line of this recount, and instead of moving this process forward, they play political games in the hope that they can drag this out and thwart the imminent conclusion of this recount.” A representative from Coleman’s campaign said the campaign proposed that 778 of the 1,346 ballots should be included in the recount, but suggested the remaining 554 should be reviewed. Coleman’s campaign said they found 67 additional wrongfully rejected absentee ballots that should be counted, and suggested another 587 rejected absentee ballots be reviewed. “We were stunned by the Franken campaign’s unwillingness to even examine, much less count, additional ballots that may have been improperly rejected,” Coleman spokesman Luke Friedrich said. “It’s clear the Franken campaign’s previously stated position of wanting to count every vote was nothing more than political grandstanding. The Franken campaign no longer cares about accuracy. They simply want to rush through this process in the hope of coming out on top with an artificial lead. We intend to ensure that any Minnesotan who cast a valid vote has that vote counted.” Coleman’s attorneys reiterated to reporters earlier Monday that if the Republican does not lead after the recount is finished, they plan to file a lawsuit with the state before the results are certified based on alleged “double voting,” among other issues. It is highly unlikely that either Coleman or Franken will be sworn into the Senate on Jan. 5. The state canvassing board is expected to finish the challenged-ballot review process at a Tuesday morning meeting. Franken is expected to keep his lead at the meeting.