Senator Coleman? Don’t Count on It.

Friday, January 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Mark Ambinder has a post running under the headline, “Provocation of The Day: Coleman Could Still Win.” He argues:

The Minnesota canvassing board doesn’t certify a winner; it simply certifies a count. Here we are in the contest phase. In legal terminology, it’s a de novo trial – totally new. It’s not an appeal of the canvassing board’s decision. …

Coleman will try to establish that the ballots have not been counted uniformly, and the different methods led to an inaccurate count. There is evidence for this. …

Coleman might also narrow the margins if the contest board absorbs his arguments about double counting.

I don’t buy it. Sure, anything’s possible at this point, but you have to remember that the courts don’t operate in a vacuum. As much as they should be following the letter of the law, they’re also well aware that the people of Minnesota are thoroughly fed up with this election and want their full dual representation in the U.S. Senate.

According to a recent poll, 49 percent of Minnesotans disagree with Coleman’s plan to challenge the election results, and 44 percent say he should concede even before the justices rule on the case. Among independents in another poll, a majority oppose Coleman’s decision and want Franken to be seated provisionally.

And who are the justices making this decision? They’re a three-judge tribunal appointed by NFL Hall of Famer Alan Page, who is believed to be a Democrat. While his selected judges technically cover the political spectrum — they were appointed by a DFLer (Rudy Perpich), an independent (Jesse Ventura) and a Republican (Arne Carlson), respectively — Carlson has already stated publicly that Coleman should concede. If these judges lean in any direction, it’s likely to be Franken’s.

Then we come to the crux of the matter: the nature of Coleman’s challenges. Quite simply, there’s no consistency to them. Coleman’s cherry-picking lawyers are asking to add some ballots and remove others, without any overarching logic (or much success). The judges will recognize that Franken can play that game too, and unless they want to open up a whole new set of challenges, it seems to me that they’re likely to uphold the canvassing board’s result — and the state Supreme Court’s prior rulings — and send Franken to Washington.

UPDATE: Nate Silver also has some thoughts on this. Worth a read.

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