The three judges were unanimous on Monday, and bluntly clear: In their view, Norm Coleman's claim that more rejected absentee ballots belong in the U.S. Senate election count is without legal merit. Al Franken is entitled to receive a certificate of election, the judges said.
Coleman vigorously disagrees, and alleges that some 4,400 absentee voters have been wrongfully disenfranchised. The gravity of his charge, and the need for this election contest to end with a result that Minnesotans widely accept as credible, make a Minnesota Supreme Court review of the district court panel's decision worthwhile.
We add this caveat: That review should be conducted with as much expedition as appellate jurists can muster. Coleman has a right to appeal, and the absentee voters whose ballots he seeks to add to the count have a right to serious consideration under the law.
But those rights stand in increasingly evident tension with Minnesota's constitutional right to dual representation in the U.S. Senate.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar has performed an admirable solo act. Still, two voices are better than one when it comes to securing federal funding for Minnesota projects, or representing this state's particular perspective on issues ranging from health care to immigration to military and veterans' affairs.
Minnesotans are eager, too, for the assurance the courts can provide that this state's elections are as good as they claim to be. Minnesotans boast about elections administered competently, fairly and impartially, with as much consistency as decentralized human endeavors can afford. Those bragging rights are on trial in this Senate contest.
Monday's undivided ruling goes a long way toward vindicating Minnesota's election system. Three respected, veteran district court judges, appointed by three governors with differing partisan ties, took testimony from 142 witnesses, collected 1,717 exhibits and examined more than 19,000 pages of pleadings, motions and briefs.
They came to a unanimous conclusion: "The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the November 4, 2008 election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately. ... The citizens of Minnesota should be proud of their election system."
Pride should not be blind to the possibility of improvement. Minnesota's absentee-ballot procedures are too complicated. They present voters with too many possibilities of unintentional errors. While the courts make haste to give Coleman's contentions another state review, the Legislature and governor should collaborate with similar urgency on revisions that would reduce the absentee-ballot error rate in the next state general election.