Dealing a major blow to incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman’s hopes of returning to the Senate, the three-judge panel hearing Coleman’s Minnesota election contest with Democrat Al Franken issued a ruling late Tuesday that appears to restrict any counting of new ballots to no more than 400.
It is believed that number would make it extremely improbable that Coleman would be able to make up the official gap of 225 ballots and change the course of the election. Coleman’s attorneys have stated that up to 1,300 ballots should be counted.
Franken’s legal team voiced strong approval of the panel’s decision.
“This court has spoken clearly about what the legal standards are,” Franken lead attorney Marc Elias told the media on a conference call late.
“It’s not looking good,” said a GOP staffer close to Coleman told Politico.com, regarding the three-judge panel’s ruling.
The panel scheduled a session in one week during which it will open the remaining ballots. It reserved its option to count fewer than 400 based on its rulings, if it so wishes.
Asked if the ruling was a Franken victory, Elias replied: “It’s a win for the people of Minnesota.”
Elias also praised the diligence of election officials and judges who have presided over the case. The three-judge panel deliberated for over two weeks before issuing its ruling.
If the Tuesday hearing results in Franken prevailing, as he has in earlier stages of the recount, Coleman’s attorneys are expected to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
After the Minnesota Supreme Court issues its ruling, Elias says Franken could be certified the winner.
“I think that is what the [state] Supreme Court [has] said,” says Elias.
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