Legal teams representing Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken will be working feverishly throughout the weekend to hone their cases, now that the last obstacle to an extended election contest has been swept away by the three-judge panel hearing the case.
That judicial panel has rejected two Franken motions that, if granted, could have virtually shut the door on Coleman’s hopes of returning to the Senate.
Franken’s attorneys had asked that judges either toss out the lawsuit, or restrict it to a narrow review of math and other minor technicalities unlikely to uncover votes that should have been counted.
Throughout the recount process, which reversed the apparent Election Day result and gave Franken a 225 vote lead, state officials and the state Supreme Court had promised the Coleman team that their issues – duplicate ballots, uncounted absentee ballots, and other disputes – could best be addressed in court. Few observers expected the panel to reverse course and seriously limit the issues to be adjudicated.
Coleman attorney Ben Goldberg hailed Thursday’s ruling as a ‘stinging defeat’ for Franken.
The panel continues to review a Coleman request that inspectors be dispatched to all 86 Minnesota precincts, to look into allegations that many ballots were counted twice, while others were not counted at all.
Franken’s attorneys said that proposal is “almost physically impossible,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. The election contest trial is scheduled to begin on Monday, and could take weeks to resolve.
In related news, Coleman told The Associated Press that any other opponent probably would have beaten him outright on Nov. 4.
"I think any Democrat other than Al Franken would have been elected," Coleman said. "A Minnesota-bred, traditional Democratic candidate probably could have waltzed into office in this cycle."
Coleman blamed the economic meltdown and the unpopularity of former President Bush for making his reelection campaign an uphill battle.
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