The Minnesota Supreme Court will not wade into the murky issue of allegedly double-counted ballots in the U.S. Senate contest. Sen. Norm Coleman’s campaign believes that in some instances both duplicate and original ballots were mistakenly included in the statewide manual recount. It had asked the state’s top court to prohibit the canvassing board from certifying any election results until the issue is resolved.
But a unanimous Supreme Court ruled today that it doesn’t have sufficient information to get involved in the matter. “We do not and cannot decide that question based on the record presented in this abbreviated proceeding,” Justice Alan Page wrote in his opinion for the court.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the issue of double-counted ballots is dead. More than likely it will now be contested in district court, where there would be an opportunity for both sides to present evidence and testimony on the matter. Coleman attorney Fritz Knaak told Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Scheck today that the decision “virtually guarantees that this will be decided in an election contest.”
The Franken campaign, not surprisingly, hailed the Supreme Court’s action. “Minnesotans have waited a long time to find out who won this race,” communications director Andy Barr said in a statement, “and today’s unanimous ruling means that the process can move forward despite attempts to halt its progress and cast doubt on the result.”
In a related matter the Supreme Court also extended the deadline for local election officials to identify wrongfully rejected absentee ballots. The justices originally ordered county canvassing boards to certify adjusted tallies that included such ballots by the end of the calendar year. Under today’s order they are now required to identify any mistakenly rejected absentee ballots and deliver them to the Secretary of State’s office by January 2. The state’s top election official will then have two days to tabulate the ballots.
The canvassing board is slated to meet on January 5 and 6. Theoretically it could (finally) certify a winner at that time.