Wednesday morning the five-member statewide canvassing board will meet to discuss the fate of absentee ballots that were rejected by local election officials. Al Franken’s campaign believes that information about those ballots should be scrutinized to determine if they were properly invalidated. Norm Coleman’s campaign has argued that inspecting such ballots is outside the purview of the statewide recount currently underway.
Today the Franken camp provided some insight into how many contested ballots might be at stake in that decision. According to Marc Elias, the Democrat’s lead recount attorney, they have so far received information on rejected absentee ballots from all or part of 66 counties. In those jurisdictions there were at least 6,432 absentee ballots deemed invalid by local election officials.
Elias says Franken’s campaign has already discovered numerous improperly rejected ballots. In Itasca County, for example, the justification given for one ballot being rejected by local election officials was quite blunt: “We screwed up and somebody put it in the reject pile.”
“The fact is that no Minnesotan should be disenfranchised because ‘we screwed up and somebody put it in the reject pile.’” said Elias. “The canvas board has the opportunity to look at these rejected ballots and to do the right thing.”
Whatever the outcome of the canvassing board hearing tomorrow, it seems likely that the fate of the rejected absentee ballots will ultimately be settled in court. The Franken campaign won an initial legal battle in Ramsey County District Court last week when Judge Dale Lindman ruled that the campaign was entitled to information about invalidated absentee ballots. Elias declined to speculate on what course of action the campaign might take if it’s dissatisfied with the canvassing board’s decision on the matter.
“We’re going to take this process one step at a time,” he said. “We have confidence in this process.”