A recount attorney for Sen. Norm Coleman said today that a legal contest over the eventual results in the U.S. Senate recount is "inevitable," and that it will be the Coleman campaign that files the contest if the current process isn't changed.
In an afternoon news briefing, Fritz Knaak lauded the Minnesota Supreme Court's directive today to seek more information from counties that have issues with rejected absentee ballots, and said that the order "acknowledges what we now know to be unequivocable -- the process is broken."
If it's not fixed, Knaak said, he expects that the state Canvassing Board will certify Democrat Al Franken as the winner. But Franken, who has an unofficial lead over Coleman of 49 votes, "no longer wants every vote counted," Knaak said.
Counties around the state are supposed to finish their review today of about 1,350 absentee ballots that they had identified as being wrongly rejected. Under the process set down by the Supreme Court last week, the campaigns and the counties have to agree on the ballots before they can be forwarded to St. Paul for the counting process scheduled to begin tomorrow.
However, the Coleman campaign has asked that an additional 650 absentee ballots that they identified as improperly rejected should be added to the mix. The Franken campaign also has identified such ballots, though not as many.
On Wednesday, the Coleman campaign asked the Supreme Court to halt the current process and have all disputed ballots, about 2,000 or so, forwarded to St. Paul to be considered in a uniform manner by state and campaign officials.
In response to that petition, the Minnesota Supreme Court today asked seven counties for more information on the rejected ballots that the Coleman and Franken campaigns want added to the U.S. Senate recount.
Rather than ruling on the Coleman request, the court order written by Justice Alan Page directs all parties to provide responses and information by 9 a.m. Saturday. That timeline would seem to suggest the Court may decide on Coleman's request as early as tomorrow.
The order also leaves open the possibility that the court might call on the parties to argue their positions before the justices.
The order appears to focus on absentee ballots beyond about 1,350 that were identified by county election officials as wrongly rejected.
The counties in question are Hennepin, Ramsey, Stearns, Pipestone, Anoka, Sherburne and St. Louis. According to the order, they must say whether they considered rejected absentee ballots that weren't among those identified by local officials but were identified by either campaign. If the counties did not consider those ballots, the order states, the counties should explain why.