In a solid straight-forward decision, the three judge panel hearing Norm Coleman's recount case ruled in Al Franken's favor. The determined that Franken currently has a 312-vote lead and stands behind the state Canvassing Board decision also in favor of Franken.
"The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the Nov. 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately," the panel said.
While a second panel ruled Franken the winner, the Senate race isn't over. The decision was expected, but still made big news late last evening as both sides postured themselves for the next step: Coleman's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. If he loses again, Coleman has the choice to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Get the full details on the ruling and the campaign responses below.
The panel didn't seem to take Coleman's arguments well, saying they would "lead to an absurd result. Following [Coleman's] argument to its conclusion, the court would be compelled to conclude that if one county mistakenly allowed felons to vote, then all counties would have to count the votes of felons."
Coleman didn't show that "alleged errors or irregularities regarding the treatment of absentee ballots affected the outcome of the election."
The Pioneer Press breaks down Coleman's arguments:
Point by point, the judges dissected Coleman's case in their 56-page decision Monday. Point by point, they dismissed it.Read the full document here (PDF).
The double-counting Coleman alleged existed during the recount? Unproven, the judges wrote. Coleman's objection to using an Election Day count in lieu of lost ballots from a Minneapolis precinct? Dismissed, the judges declared. His complaints that the state voter-registration system was not up-to-date and was flawed? No, they wrote, it's "trustworthy." And his conflicted claims about absentee ballots? Well, read on -- because Coleman has vowed to continue fighting on that front.
Franken spoke shortly after the documents were released. Here is an excerpt of his comments:
Franni and I couldn't be happier, because today, after a lengthy and careful trial scrutinizing our lengthy and careful recount, the three-judge panel has declared a winner in the 2008 Senate election here in Minnesota.Watch Franken's full response to the decision:
I am honored and humbled by this close victory, and I'm looking forward to getting to work as soon as possible.
The campaign for this Senate seat has been long and expensive. But the fight ahead, the fight to rebuild our economy and repair our broken health care system and restore our standing in the world - that's a fight we must win. It's a fight we must win by setting aside partisan gamesmanship and working together.
My role in that fight will be to work every day with Senators from both parties to serve the state I love, because restoring America's promise is going to be a big job. And it's long past time we got to work.
Coleman's campaign attorney, Ben Ginsberg, issued a statement promising an appeal. Here's his statement:
"More than 4,400 Minnesotans remain wrongly disenfranchised by this court's order. The court's ruling tonight is consistent with how they've ruled throughout this case but inconsistent with the Minnesota tradition of enfranchising voters. This order ignores the reality of what happened in the counties and cities on Election Day in terms of counting the votes. By its own terms, the court has included votes it has found to be 'illegal' in the contest to remain included in the final counts from Election Day, and equal protection and due process concerns have been ignored. For these reasons, we must appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court so that no voter is left behind."While the U.S. Senate has the power to try and seat Franken without an election certificate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wouldn't try to seat Franken until Coleman's appeal to the state Supreme Court is complete.
But should Coleman keep up the fight? The Democrats created GiveItUpNorm.com to try and convince him to concede, but the response hasn't been overwhelming. About 5,000 people have signed a petition asking Coleman to give it up. If Coleman keeps appealing, he faces a mountain of legal bills. According to FiveThirtyEight number crunching, the cases are costing Coleman $145,000 a week to pay his lawyers and other related fees.