...it's all over but the celebrating: Judges rule Franken winner! (sigh: Moleman to appeal)
Three judges soundly rejected Norm Coleman's attempt to reverse Al Franken's lead in the U.S. Senate election late Monday, sweeping away the Republican's claims in a blunt ruling Coleman promised to appeal.
After a trial spanning nearly three months, the judicial panel dismissed Coleman's central argument that the election and its aftermath were fraught with systemic errors that made the results invalid.
"The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the Nov. 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately," the panel said in its unanimous decision.
The panel concluded that Franken, a DFLer, "received the highest number of votes legally cast" in the election. Franken emerged from the trial with a 312-vote lead, the court ruled, and "is therefore entitled to receive the certificate of election."
Speaking to reporters outside his downtown Minneapolis condominium, Franken, flanked by his wife, Franni, said he had "no control" over what Coleman does next but said he would urge his opponent not to appeal, which would delay his certification. "I am honored and humbled by this close victory," he said. "And it's long past time we got to work."
In an interview earlier in the day, Coleman said he believes "thousands" of rejected votes should have been counted.
Coleman legal spokesman Ben Ginsberg said the ruling denies many valid votes by applying a stricter standard to determining eligible ballots than local officials applied during the recount.
"This order ignores the reality of what happened in the counties and cities on Election Day in terms of counting the votes," Ginsberg said, asserting that Coleman must appeal to assure that valid votes are counted. Coleman's lawyers have 10 days to file an appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court.
But experts who read the panel's 68-page ruling say it effectively attacks some of the very arguments that Coleman would use on appeal.
"It is the kind of opinion that is unlikely to be disturbed on appeal by either the Minnesota Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court," said Richard Hasen, an expert on election law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "The opinion considers the major arguments made by Coleman and rejects them in a detailed and measured way."