Q & A with Norm Coleman: 'Getting it right is of critical importance'
- Article by: Denise Johnson
- April 18, 2009 - 11:31 PM
Norm Coleman met with Star Tribune editorial writers and reporters last week and discussed his continuing legal challenge to return to the U.S. Senate. Below are excerpts from his comments, compiled by editorial writer Denise Johnson. To watch video excerpts of the interview, click here for Part I and here for Part II.
ON THE SUPREME COURT APPEAL
We will file an appeal, and we're anticipating that the Minnesota Supreme Court will move in an expedited fashion. We believe very strongly that there are thousands of Minnesotans who voted through absentee ballots and didn't know that their ballots had been rejected until these proceedings began. Those ballots should be counted. We serve at the consent of the governed. And to get the consent of the governed they must have confidence that the election result is the right result.
There was no malicious intent; good judges made decisions that resulted in the disenfranchisement of voters -- that's a constitutional problem.
ON THE ISSUES AT STAKE
It was a slam-dunk decision to file an appeal. We think the court was wrong when they talked about "garden variety'' errors [on ballots]. The court was wrong to say it didn't have jurisdiction to deal with equal protection. As a result, we weren't able to introduce the full range of evidence.
The canvassing board said some of the issues are for the trial court. The trial court said it doesn't have jurisdiction. The Minnesota Supreme Court will be the first time a body will say they have the jurisdiction to deal with the fundamental issues.
This is not about minute, local variations. These are substantial policy differences; the record establishes major differences from county to county in the handling of absentee ballots. Whether your vote is counted should not depend upon where you live. Our case is about equal protection and due process.
ON POSSIBLE FURTHER APPEALS
I'm just focusing on what's in front of me -- not ruling any future action in or out. I'm hopeful. I think the law is on our side.
ON MINNESOTA HAVING AN OPEN SENATE SEAT
It clearly is a problem. I'm a former mayor. Constituent service is a big part of what we do.
You've got to balance it out. I do not discount or ignore the burden that Sen. Klobuchar faces and that Minnesotans are losing right now. But I really believe that this issue of enfranchising voters and getting it right is of critical importance. This issue will live beyond my election and will impact many other elections.
ON POLLS THAT SAY HE SHOULD STEP ASIDE
I'm not going to stick my finger to the wind and say here's a poll, here's what we should do. People are frustrated, yes. You don't need a poll to tell you that. I'd like to get it over with. My family would. I'm sure Mr. Franken and his family would. But what we're fighting for is important.
ON WHETHER HE IS TRYING TO DELAY THE DEMOCRATIC AGENDA
That's really an absurd statement. This is a six-year seat: Someone will have a long time to serve. Whether it's done in a month or six weeks, this race will be over. There will be plenty of time to enact and vote on whatever you think the agenda is. Bottom line is that there are very important, legitimate, legal principles at stake that deserve to be heard by the court.
ON HIS POLITICAL FUTURE
I say this humbly: I don't spend 30 seconds worrying about my political future. I consider myself blessed to have had 32 years of public service; a stunning career. I don't define myself by the office that I hold. If I have a chance to serve, I will. And if the voters decide something else, I'll do something else. I don't need a public office in order to support my family. I'll be 60 this year and have spent half my life in public service. That's wonderful, but if it weren't to continue, that would be fine, too.
ON THE CREDIBILITY OF THE EVENTUAL WINNER
No matter who wins, one side is going to pound the other side and question the credibility of the winner. If I win, I'll be shot at by those who say, "Is he legitimate?" "Did he really get the most votes?'' But the idea of cutting it off with 4,000 votes out there, including the 180 in Carver County whose only sin was living in a place where they enforce the standard a certain way, you're going to have questions.
The little bit more time that we need to do this provides a greater sense of credibility, but it's not perfect. Whoever wins -- it's going to be tough reelection for that person, no question.
ON URGING FRANKEN NOT TO PURSUE A RECOUNT
Now that we know all the challenges, I wouldn't say that again.
More importantly, there has been the intervening element. We've had a trial and we've seen things that nobody knew until now. Nobody knew that there was a different standard of dealing with nonregister witnesses between Carver County and Minneapolis. Nobody even looked at the fact that you've got 70 votes rejected in Plymouth because signatures were mismatched. Now we know some counties looked to see whether an application was signed and others didn't. Since election night, we've had a review of a system that has impacted the ability of folks to have their votes counted. Now, based on what we've learned, there is a constitutional issue that needs to be addressed.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BIPARTISAN WORK
Even during this time, I'm in touch with my colleagues, my good friends on both sides of the aisle. There is still a group of folks in the Senate who really think it is much healthier to figure out ways to find common ground. And they haven't given up the hope of doing that. Amy's [Klobuchar] been part of that. I lament that it [the partisan divide] is there. What I offer in terms of temperament and ability to work with people is important.
Is there a greater need now than ever before to find some ways to actually solve problems? Yes. And would we be better served if it was less polarized? Yes.
I look forward to being involved in the discussions about how we move the country forward in these most challenging times. I would love to have that opportunity. And depending up on what the Supreme Court does, we'll see if I do.
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