Franken loses in court, full contest to be heard

A three-judge panel in Minnesota ruled against Al Franken twice in his attempts to limit the scope of the election contest to just a recount of the recount.  The Norm Coleman camp rejoiced as the court agreed to review all of their points on the contest, including the double-counting of over 130 Franken votes and the lack of consistency in absentee-ballot reviews:

Al Franken’s effort to block Norm Coleman’s lawsuit over the U.S. Senate recount was rejected Thursday by a three-judge panel, setting the stage for a trial to begin Monday on the Republican’s claims.

State election law doesn’t undermine the Senate’s constitutional power to later judge the qualifications of its members, the judges said in denying Franken’s request to dismiss the election contest, as the lawsuit is called.

The panel also rejected Franken’s attempt to limit any court review to verifying math and other technicalities of the recount and canvass, clearing the way for the judges to consider Coleman claims that some votes in Democratic areas were counted twice, that some absentee ballots from GOP areas were wrongly rejected and that there were other irregularities.

The panel noted that the Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled that while those claims shouldn’t be decided during the recount, they “would be properly heard in an election contest” in court.

I doubt that Franken’s lawyers expected to succeed with either argument.  Minnesota law provides for election contests to settle larger questions than just vote counts.  Coleman (and Franken) had the right to contest the results and to have these issues heard in court.

Since the law has always been clear on that question, one has to wonder why the Franken campaign even bothered to argue it.  Either they did so out of reflex, a shotgun approach in which they just challenge everything and hope some of it sticks, or they’re worried about the questions Team Coleman has raised.  Certainly on the double-counting and the lack of uniform standards on absentee ballot reviews, Coleman does have a case for a contest, and some would argue that the Canvassing Board’s actions amounted to an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

Coleman says he won’t quit until the ballots get counted correctly, even if the case has to go to the Supreme Court.  Franken and Harry Reid can’t be thrilled to hear that.