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Coleman’s slim chances in election contest cut in half (updated)

by The Big E on February 14, 2009

The latest news from the MN election contest, in which former Sen. Norm Coleman is hoping to keep Al Franken from becoming our next Senator, is that Norm’s chances just got cut in half.  The 3-judge panel ruled that they will not consider 13 categories of rejected ballots (The judges had previously asked that the contestants argue why or why not to consider ballots in 19 separate categories).  They ruled that ballots in these 13 categories were legally rejected and Norm’s legal team wouldn’t be able to present ballots in these categories for consideration.

Noah Kunin of The Uptake speculated on AM950′s On The Uptake show that this could halve the universe of 4600 or so ballots that are still in contention.  I would add that it could possibly be fewer than 2000 … we won’t know until guys like Noah get a chance to analyze things.

“You never know if this was the turning point until the journey is over,” Marc Elias said when asked if this was a turning point.

He wouldn’t comment on how many ballots were tossed or still remain, but did offer that the rulings will affect a “large chunk” of the ballots.

Elias said that the judges rejected the notion offered by the Coleman legal team that there was a “systemic problem” with how absentee ballots were rejected.  ”The vast majority were counted, a small percentage were rejected improperly.”

The Franken legal team has always maintained that only a small number were improperly rejected. On the other hand, the Coleman team had initially claimed that none were.  After losing the recount, they asserted that all 12,000 were possibly wrongly rejected and vacillated around for a while until the court narrowed the universe to 4800.

Another important ruling, according to Elias, was that the burden of proof has been decided.  The Coleman team needs to clearly prove that a ballot was lawfully cast not that it was wrongly rejected.  This is a higher standard than what the Coleman team had wanted.  

This also makes Norm’s chances even slimmer.  To pick up 250 ballots out of a drastically reduced universe of ballots, they need a more lenient burden of proof.

While Al is not yet our Senator, I think we can begin practicing saying “Senator Al Franken.”

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