Supreme Court asks to hear from Franken, counties before ruling on Coleman’s suit

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The Minnesota Supreme Court ordered (pdf) Friday afternoon that the campaign of Al Franken respond by 9 a.m. Saturday to U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman’s Dec. 31 petition to start over on the current court-ordered effort to count wrongfully rejected absentee ballots. The justices also directed seven Minnesota counties to tell the court whether they reviewed additional rejected absentee ballots the rival campaigns want counted — and if not, why. (In regional meetings this week, Sherburne County officials, for example, refused to consider three additional ballots the Coleman campaign asked them to review.)

The court’s order left open the possibility of calling for oral arguments as it considers Coleman’s petition. It also made it clear that the justices won’t have new instructions for the State Canvassing Board before the Secretary of State’s staff starts opening and counting absentee ballots from around the state on Saturday morning.

For minute-by-minute updates on Saturday morning, as absentee ballots are opened and counted, go to The Uptake.


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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, made explicit Friday morning a vow he strongly hinted at earlier this week that Republicans would block any effort to seat Democrat Al Franken before Sen. Norm Coleman’s expected court challenge to the statewide Minnesota recount is resolved. Warning of “damage to the Senate,” Cornyn told reporters that seating a recount winner would be “a recipe for chaos.”

Also Friday morning, Gov. Tim Pawlenty questioned the Minnesota Supreme Court order under which the rival campaigns can veto the counting of votes on any of about 1,350 absentee ballots that election officials have determined should have been counted.

The court is expected to rule soon on Coleman’s Dec. 31 demand that the process for counting wrongfully rejected absentee ballots be halted and rejiggered to let the campaigns propose a new round of rejected ballots to be reconsidered.

Meanwhile, counties must turn in any ballots the campaigns have agreed may be counted to the secretary of state’s office by the end of the day, with opening and tallying of those votes planned for the weekend, barring a new Supreme Court order that blocks it. The State Canvassing Board could then certify a winner early next week.