Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
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Who knew Norm Coleman was an Emerson, Lake, and Palmer fan? The Senator appeared yesterday on the local ABC affiliate’s news interview show At Issue to discuss the election contest, and noted the nightmare scenario of … nothing happening:
TOM HAUSER: welcome back. As you know, the 2008 senate race continues to dominate the headlines, and joining me now, one of the men responsible for that, Senator Norm Coleman. Now you’re in kind of this limbo. Senator is a title you will have even if you were just retiring and for the rest of your life.
SENATOR NORM COLEMAN: But I’m not being paid by the United States Senate.
TOM HAUSER: But you are still entitled to the title senator, but it has to be strange being in this limbo, you see the action going on in Washington and you’re not part of it.
SENATOR NORM COLEMAN: I feel like in a Kafka novel or something like that, the race that never ends. I have stayed in contact with my colleagues; I have been in touch with folks talking about the stimulus. I have had to close up my office, but assuming that this thing gets done, at some point you will have to move quickly to provide citizen service. So I am spending some time to try to ensure that when this is over that we can get moving as quickly as possible – whoever the winner is, I believe I will win when all votes are counted. But I do think that it is important to get moving very quickly and I am certainly doing everything in my power to be able to do that when this recount is concluded.
TOM HAUSER: Now in the second week of this recount trial, you did have some success in court. The judges say they will review up to 4,800 ballots you would like to be reviewed, and possibly included, a few missing ballots have turned up here and there, some of which favor you. Still, despite that, isn’t it still a daunting task to try to overturn a 225 vote margin?
SENATOR NORM COLEMAN: Not really. Every single election official who has come before the panel has said that there are valid votes that haven’t been counted. We opened up, the canvassing board opened up 953 ballots from predominantly Democrat areas. We went back and looked at the nature of those ballots; and said you have over 4,000 similar kinds of ballots in the rest of the state, so open them, and count, figure out, make sure that nobody’s ballot is counted twice – the double counting of some ballots – and then you will have a winner. And so there’s no question — I don’t think anyone disagrees that it is not going to be 225 votes that is going to separate whoever wins this race. That is an artificial number. It is down somewhere from 223 even as we speak because they found some Coleman votes that weren’t counted. But the bottom line is you have thousands of absentee ballots that have not been counted and so who the winner is, we don’t know at this point, Tom. But it is important for Minnesotans that we figure out who won by making sure that every validly cast vote is counted and that no vote is counted more than once.
TOM HAUSER: Now those 4,800 that your campaign is kind of focused on, it appears that those largely come from Coleman-friendly territory, and now Franken is looking for ballots from Franken-friendly territory, so if you both do that, is it going to be somewhat of a wash and getting back to the 225 vote margin.
SENATOR NORM COLEMAN: Well, firstly, it shouldn’t be cherry picking, it really should be by category. And you look at the 953 that were opened, the reality Tom is that the first group of ballots came principally from Ramsey, Hennepin, St. Louis Counties – they’ve been counted, those heavily Democratic areas. The ones that haven’t been counted come from areas other than that. And as a result they are predominantly Republican, there’s no question about that. Bottom line, let’s count every validly cast vote. Figure out who the winner is, if it’s me I go back to work, if it’s Al Franken, he becomes a Senator. I think Minnesotans deserve to get it right, I think we need to get it right. We’re apparently on the course to make that happen.
TOM HAUSER: Now again, by the time we taped this show late Friday afternoon, we did not have the Supreme Court decision yet in Al Franken’s attempt to get seated immediately, provisionally until the recount trial is over. I know you are opposed to that motion obviously –
SENATOR NORM COLEMAN: It’s not just me being opposed, the law is very clear, in fact Tom, if I was to go out on a limb, we could presume that is not going to happen.
TOM HAUSER: Alright, good. You predicted it. We will find out if you are right.
SENATOR NORM COLEMAN: The law is very, very clear. Minnesota law says you cannot certify a winner until the contested case is concluded. Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Senate Democratic leadership are not going to seat the next senator from Minnesota. And so when we make sure every validly cast vote is counted, no votes double counted, we will have a winner, they will be certified, and that is the person who will serve as the United States Senator.
Supposedly, some in the state legislature want to pass a bill that would force the state to issue an election certificate to Franken, which Tim Pawlenty would certainly veto. I doubt anyone would be that foolish, as it all but negates the entire election contest process. If the state doesn’t want election contests, then they should amend the law to remove those provisions — but that would leave no legal recourse for candidates who want to ensure that the recount process has some oversight.
Put in other terms, that would give Gitmo detainees more appeals than a losing candidate in Minnesota.
The process has taken a lot longer than anyone wants, especially with such a national focus on this particular race. Had this been an election for Attorney General or Secretary of State, it would not have attracted a national audience in the first place, and what little interest it generated would have dissipated long ago. That doesn’t mean that the state legislature should interfere with the process set in state law long ago, which will reach a conclusion soon enough.