Republican Norm Coleman officially filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court Monday after a three-judge panel declared Al Franken the rightful winner of the empty Senate seat.
The state Supreme Court will request briefs from each side and then proceed with the case, Coleman attorneys said in a Monday telephone conference. Coleman's team said they expect the case to be "expedited," meaning oral arguments could start in as soon as two weeks.
However, the state Supreme Court is not required to hear oral arguments on the appeal.
Coleman’s team is arguing equal protection — which states that all citizens should be treated equally under state law. Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg sa id the judges denied numerous votes by being more stringent toward determining eligible ballots during the trial than local officials were during the recount.
“Minnesota is a state that believes in enfranchising, not disenfranchising, voters,” Ginsberg said Monday. “There is a principle at play here.”
Coleman’s attorneys said the remaining 4,400 absentee ballots they wish to have counted come from Coleman-supporting precincts, and could swing the election in his favor.
Coleman’s appeal also states that the 132 missing ballots from a Dinkytown precinct should not be counted because they could not be found during the recount. However, the three-judge panel ruled that there was no foul play and the votes should count.
Franken attorney Marc Elias said in a conference call Monday that despite the Coleman team stating that they want to enfranchise voters, their appeal asks to remove votes.
“When it comes to disenfranchisement, no one holds a candle to the legal team put together by former Sen. Coleman,” Elias said, adding that taking votes away from Dinkytown was a “flat out, no questions asked attempt to disenfranchise [Dinkytown] voters.”
Elias said their legal team plans to file a motion to the state Supreme Court tomorrow to expedite the review and have all briefs due within the first week of May.
“What we have now is the death throes of the Coleman legal effort,” Elias said. He said he expects the state Supreme Court to come to the same ruling as the three-judge panel — that Franken won.
David Schultz, professor at Hamline University and a nationally-recognized expert on politics, said he doesn’t expect the state Supreme Court to make a ruling before Memorial Day.
Schultz said the state Supreme Court will most likely uphold the judge’s ruling.
“The three-judge panel did a very good job in its opinion, and what Coleman is asking is the higher court to disagree,” he said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
It’s not going to happen, Shultz said, mainly because Coleman has failed to provide enough evidence to prove that there was an issue with state voting that affected the outcome of the election.
There is a chance that Coleman could take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Schultz said it’s unlikely.
If the federal Supreme Court picked up the case, it could take until this fall to seat a senator.
While legal battles continue, Minnesota’s lone senator, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., works solo on policy-making and serving constituents.
David Durenberger, who served Minnesota as a Republican U.S. senator for more than 15 years, s aid the state is missing out on major policy-making opportunities.
“You get elected to make policy, and when making policy, two minds are better than one,” he said.
Durenberger said senators typically serve on about four committees, and having one less senator reduces representation on these committees by half.
Durenberger said major decisions are being made on issues presented by President Barack Obama, and they will be laid out before these committees.
“That one is harder to feel for a lot of us, but as someone who has been there, that is where we are missing the most,” he said. “It is impossible for one senator to carry the national legislative burden that the Constitution requires two senators to do.”
Abdul-Rahman Magba-Kamara, University of Minnesota political science senior and chair of Minnesota College Republicans, said Coleman’s defense is something that needs to be seriously considered.
“This idea that there are all these different standards in counties and precincts on how to count absentee ballots,” he said, “it does a lot of disenfranchising for a lot of voters.”
Magba-Kamara said he would support Coleman taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and said it’s arrogant for Franken to be “declaring victory” already.
“There are still a lot of things out in the air,” he said. “It just points to Franken’s character that he wants to win no matter what; he doesn’t care as long as the ballots line up on his end.”
But Christine Cira , a marketing junior and former co-chair of Students for Al Franken, said she just wants to see Minnesota have a second senator.
“I want to see Al Franken in office because I honestly believe in the principles he stands for,” she said. “But there is clearly a lot of work being done at Capitol Hill, and I just want Minnesota to have a voice.”