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December 12, 2008

Coleman campaign going to court

Norm Coleman’s campaign attorney Fritz Knaak criticized the Minnesota Canvassing Board’s decision to allow counties to begin counting improperly rejected absentee ballots – and is filing a lawsuit with the Minnesota Supreme Court to contest the ruling.

Knaak said the Coleman campaign will be filing a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court calling for a “consistent standard applying statewide” determining whether to include those absentee ballots.

“The actions today by the Canvassing Board can only be described as confusing to us," said Knaak.

“While advocates for the Franken Campaign stood outside with signs reminiscent of Florida in 2000, what we now have before us is a situation in which there now exist essentially, more than 87 different standards for how ballots will be included in the so-called fifth pile."

The ruling was a victory for Al Franken's campaign, which immediately praised the decision.  The Minnesota Secretary of State estimated there are over 1,500 absentee ballots that were unfairly rejected -- a large enough number to potentially overturn Coleman's razor-thin lead over Franken.

Coleman leads Franken by 192 votes, according to the Secretary of State’s official count.

Knaak added that the canvassing board doesn’t have the authority to tell counties whether to count the rejected ballots.

Many election officials throughout the state have already been sorting absentee ballots based on why they were rejected – and putting aside a fifth group (called the “fifth pile”) with those unfairly rejected ballots. But not all counties have participated in the process, and are not legally bound to do so – even with the Canvassing Board’s recommendation.

“Based on a lack of direction from Minnesota’s Secretary of State’s office, we’ve now gone from a state that has clear consistent verifiable standard to one where each county has to decide on their own what constitutes a fifth pile ballot,” said Knaak.