Dems urge Coleman to drop legal battleby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Democrats today tried to turn up the pressure on Republican Norm Coleman to drop his legal battle for the Senate seat. Yesterday evening, the judicial panel ruled against Coleman in his election challenge lawsuit. But Coleman is showing no signs of throwing in the towel. Today, Coleman's attorney started outlining the case Coleman will now bring to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
St. Paul, Minn. — "I would call on Senator Coleman to allow me to get to work for the people of Minnesota as soon as possible," said Al Franken at press conference held outside his home in Minneapolis Monday night.
The pressure is on Norm Coleman to give up now that the three-judge panel has slammed the door on Coleman's lawsuit challenging the election results. The recount ended with Franken ahead by 225 votes. His lead increased to 312 over Coleman as a result of Coleman's lawsuit. Democrats say it's time for Coleman to accept the results and step aside.
But there's no way that's going to happen according to Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg, who told reporters today that he expects the Coleman campaign will file its appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court next week.
Ginsberg insists that thousands of absentee votes that should have been counted were rejected because, in some cases, counties made up their own acceptance standards.
Talking with reporters during a telephone news conference Tuesday, Ginsberg accused the three-judge panel of defending Minnesota's election system rather than recognizing and correcting problems.
"The volume and significance of the equal protection violations -- similar ballots being treated differently by different jurisdictions -- is great enough to turn the results of this election," Ginsberg said. "You can not know who won their election without coming to grips with the equal protection issue."
But the judicial panel wrote the overwhelming evidence is that Minnesota's Senate election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately.
While Democrats want Coleman to call it quits, Republicans are encouraging him to stay in the fight. In a fundraising e-mail to supporters, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, states that consitutional rights of due process and equal protection are "under attack" in Minnesota.
While the Coleman campaign is adamant the judicial panel erred, William Mitchell College of Law constitutional law expert Raleigh Levine says the judges addressed the equal protection issues head-on.
Take Coleman's claim that because some illegal ballots were counted, other similarly illegal ballots that were rejected should also be opened.
"The panel really points out the absurdity of taking that argument to is logical conclusion, which is that if somebody accidently let a felon vote or a minor vote then that would mean that you know every felon and minor in the state would [have] an equal protection claim that they should have been allowed to vote too," Levine said, "and that their votes should be counted. I don't think any court would say that that's what the equal protection clause means."
Levine also said the judges listened and reacted to Coleman's concerns about discrepancies in the way some election officials treated absentee ballots.
"The panel too did a pretty good job of explaining that you can't have a perfect election," Levine said. "There are always going to be minor variations."
Levine said it's difficult to say how long it will take the Minnesota Supreme Court to consider and rule on Coleman promised appeal once it's filed, but that it will likely be several weeks. Some national Republicans have been saying Minnesota's Senate dispute may have to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Franken attorney Marc Elias said he doubts that will happen.
"It's extremely unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court would have reason to take this case," Elias said. "So if Sen. Coleman chooses to appeal to the state Supreme Court, I think this will be the end of the road for him."
Elias and others say if Coleman loses at the state Supreme Court, Franken should get the election certificate he needs to take a place in the Senate. But that certificate will need Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's signature, and Pawlenty has not said whether he plans to sign it when the state Supreme Court phase is completed.
- All Things Considered, 04/14/2009, 5:19 p.m.