I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, the Minnesota Supreme Court Likes Me. This election may have been a virtual tie, but Al Franken swept the Minnesota Supreme Court today. The Court ruled that Franken should be certified as the winner of the state’s Senate race — rejecting a challenge by Republican Norm Coleman. With Franken, the Democrats will have the votes to overcome any filibuster (if you include the two independents).
On election night, Coleman was ahead by a margin of 206 votes out of more than 2.9 million votes. After the recount, Franken led by 225 votes.
Coleman’s hopes were pinned on thousands of absentees votes that were rejected by election officials, but the Supreme Court found that those voters failed to satisfy the conditions set out for such voting.
On the substantive due process issue, the court ruled:
We conclude that our existing case law requires strict compliance by voters with the requirements for absentee voting. Thus, we reject Coleman’s argument that only substantial compliance by voters is required. Having rejected this argument, we also conclude that the trial court’s February 13 order requiring strict compliance with the statutory requirements for absentee voting was not a deviation from our well-established precedent.
Because strict compliance with the statutory requirements for absentee voting is, and has always been, required, there is no basis on which voters could have reasonably believed that anything less than strict compliance would suffice. Furthermore, Coleman does not cite, and after review of the record we have not found, any evidence in the record that election officials required only substantial compliance in any past election or any official pronouncements that only substantial compliance would be required in the November 4, 2008 election. Nor does Coleman point us to the testimony of any voter who neglected to comply with the statutory requirements for absentee voting in reliance on either past practice or official assurances that strict compliance was not required.
At oral argument, Coleman posited that because of the increased use of the absentee voting method, it should now be treated as a right, not a privilege. But that is a policy determination for the legislature, not this court, to make. Indeed, Coleman‟s counsel acknowledged during oral argument that Coleman cannot claim that any voters changed their behavior based on the alleged substantial compliance standard.
It is difficult to argue with the Court’s opinion, which is well-written and well-based. There is no satisfying conclusion here for everyone. Coleman’s supporters have a right to be bitter. A couple hundred votes put the result on an almost arbitrary basis. I have long believed that there should be an automatic re-vote when candidates (both presidential or congressional) fail to receive a majority of votes. With the two most popular candidates, the election is likely to produce a majority favorite and avoid most such razor-thin results. While it is possible to still have close races, it is less likely.
Coleman has conceded the race.
Here is the ruling: OPA090697-6030
For the story, click here.