Supreme Court denies Coleman motion; extends ballot deadline

The Minnesota Supreme Court has denied a motion by Republican Senator Norm Coleman's campaign calling for an investigation into whether double counting occurred in the U.S. Senate recount.

Coleman's campaign has argued that dozens of voters in 25 precincts, many in Democrat-leaning Minneapolis, may have gotten two votes when election judges couldn't feed their ballots through counting machines and made duplicates.

The court's order upholds a ruling by the State Canvassing Board rejecting challenged votes based on duplicate ballots. Justice Alan Page wrote in the unanimous decision that the court can't determine whether some votes have been counted twice.

Page however, left open the possibility of a court challenge.

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Coleman Campaign attorney Fritz Knaak said the Minnesota Supreme Court decision "virtually guarantees that this will be decided in an election contest." "We're prepared to file an election contest," Knaak said.

Knaak wouldn't say if one would be filed, but said he's still confident that they'll win. He also said that the election winner cannot be certified until the contest phase is complete.

Al Franken's spokesman, Andy Barr, said he was pleased with the Supreme Court's ruling. He also said it sets the stage for a smooth end to the recount process. When asked about the possibility of an election contest.

"I'm sure that the Coleman campaign will continue to find ways to cast doubt on it when they realize that it won't go their way," Barr said. "We're just focused on one thing at a time and right now that's the disposition of those uncounted absentees. Following that, we expect that we're going to be talking about transition and about Al getting to Washington."

Also today, justices extended the deadline to count any wrongly-rejected absentee ballots.

The Minnesota Supreme Court order requires local elections officials to identify any wrongly-rejected absentee ballots, and ship those ballots to the Secretary of State's office by Jan. 2. The chief elections official for the Secretary of State is then required to open and count the ballots by Jan. 4.

The court originally ordered local elections officials to open the ballots and notify the Secretary of State's office of any changes in the results by Dec. 31. The Secretary of State's office and the campaigns for Al Franken and Norm Coleman requested the extension to ensure the privacy of those voters who had their ballots rejected.

Elections officials estimate that as many as 1,600 absentee ballots were wrongly rejected. Those votes are one of the remaining issues to determine the winner in the race. Franken currently leads Coleman by just 47 votes.


(The Associate Press contributed to this report)