Ramsey County Judge Dale Lindman ruled that Al Franken’s campaign can gain access to information on voters whose ballots were rejected. This morning Lindman heard nearly an hour of arguments over the issue, and this afternoon he ordered Ramsey County election officials to hand over the data by the close of business Wednesday.
“With each passing hour, the Franken campaign is irreparably harmed in its efforts to ensure that each valid vote is properly counted and to prepare for the procedures that will decide this election,” Lindman wrote in his order, which applies only to Ramsey County. Franken is seeking data from all 87 of the state’s counties to see if rejected votes were done so properly.
Fourteen counties have already turned over the data, but Ramsey was a holdout.
U.S. Senate recount: It’s a legal matter, baby
By Paul Demko, Minnesota Independent
The fight over the closest Senate contest in Minnesota history turned to the Ramsey County Courthouse this morning.
In a hearing before Judge Dale Lindman, Al Franken’s campaign argued that Ramsey County election officials should be required to turn over information about rejected absentee ballots. Attorney David Lillehaug made the case that the names of all voters who had their ballots invalidated, along with the reason for that decision, should be provided.
“That information is critical to the plaintiff,” he stated
Although Norm Coleman’s campaign is not a party in the lawsuit, that didn’t stop his legal team from weighing in on the matter. Attorney Fritiz Knaak countered that Ramsey County rightfully determined that such data is private under state law. “Our paramount concern really throughout the process has been ballot security,” Knaak said.
Although Judge Lindman did not immediately issue a ruling on the matter, he indicated that one would be forthcoming by the end of the day. Lindman seemed inclined to favor the Franken campaign’s legal reasoning, aggressively questioning assistant Ramsey County attorney Darwin Lookingbill on why the envelopes containing the invalidated ballots shouldn’t be public data. “Shouldn’t they be entitled to look at the envelope?” he asked at one point.
The Franken campaign has requested information from all 87 counties in order to discern whether ballots were improperly rejected. On Monday it issued a legal brief highlighting four cases where it believes voters were wrongly disenfranchised. Despite the Coleman team’s legal stance, it has made an identical request of local election officials. According to Knaak, only 14 jurisdictions have so far complied and two of them subsequently expressed misgivings about providing the data.
Even if the Franken campaign prevails on the public records issue, it likely faces an uphill battle in convincing the statewide canvassing board to examine the purged ballots. In a ruling issued yesterday, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office indicated that it believes those ballots should not be considered in the statewide manual recount that got underway this morning.
Whatever the outcome of the current legal dispute, it seems unlikely that this will prove to be the final visit to a courtroom by the dueling campaigns.