- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 16, 2009

Attorneys for Norm Coleman filed their final brief with the Minnesota Supreme Court Friday in the bitterly contested 2008 election that the former Republican senator lost to Democrat Al Franken by 225 votes after a partial recount.

The filing extends a protracted battle for the nation’s last vacant Senate seat, which could give Democrats an effective filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats if Mr. Franken prevails.

Mr. Coleman’s brief asks the state’s highest court to agree to his request that 4,400 absentee ballots - which his lawyers maintain were “wrongly excluded from the count” - be added to the final election tally.

“The wrongful disenfranchisement occurred because of different standards used on Election Day by different jurisdictions for similar ballots, so that similar ballots were counted or not counted based solely on where the voter lived,” said Mr. Coleman’s legal spokesman, Ben Ginsberg.

Mr. Coleman is appealing a unanimous lower court ruling on April 13 that gave Mr. Franken a 312-vote lead after agreeing to count some ballots but excluding others. The central argument in Mr. Coleman’s case is that the proceeding did not treat the ballots with the same standard of consistency.

“A vote that was counted in one jurisdiction was not counted in the neighboring jurisdiction. The trial court imposed a new and different set of rules in February so that instead of enfranchising the disenfranchised, they ignored the inconsistencies and flaws in the system,” Mr. Ginsberg said.

“We asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to reinstate the Minnesota tradition of enfranchising voters and counting all of the valid votes,” he said.

Mr. Franken’s lawyers denied that variations in the standards used by different counties in counting the absentee ballots disenfranchised some voters - calling the differences “reasonable” and “minor.”

In their brief, filed Monday, Mr. Franken’s attorneys asked the high court to affirm the trial court’s finding and order Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, to award him a certificate of election.

Mr. Coleman’s brief Friday did not address whether the governor should issue a certificate of election after the high court rules. Democrats have pressed the governor to act even if Mr. Coleman pursues a challenge in federal courts.

If the state Supreme Court rules in Mr. Franken’s favor, Mr. Coleman could very well take his case into the federal courts and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said last weekend.

“This does not end until there’s a final rule that speaks to whether or not those votes that have not been counted should be counted,” Mr. Steele told the National Journal. “And Norm Coleman will not, will not jump out of this race before that.”

Oral arguments in the case have been scheduled for June 1.

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