The Minnesota Senate recount election will make a giant step towards a conclusion on Friday, when the state's canvassing board meets to determine the fate of improperly dismissed absentee ballots.
On Tuesday, Al Franken's chief counsel traveled to Washington D.C. to brief reporters on the current status of the election. He deliberately did not close the window on legal action if unlawfully rejected absentee voters were not counted.
"We purposely made a point not to appeal. We wanted to let this canvassing board have an opportunity to figure out where it wanted to go with these uncounted absentee ballots... we will await the hearing on Friday," said Mark Elias. But "if voters in Minnesota are disenfranchised, all options will be on the table. We will not walk away from hundreds, if not thousands votes that did not get counted because of administrative errors."
The Franken campaign is not the only one working the referees on this issue. Last week, lawyers for the Coleman campaign sent a letter to the Secretary of State, criticizing his office for asking that the canvassing board sort out absentee ballots that may have been dismissed illegally or unnecessarily.
"We therefore respectfully submit that Minnesota election officials are under absolutely no legal obligation to comply with this open-ended investigative action requested by the Minnesota Secretary of State, and your office has no jurisdiction to undertake these activities if a local election official chooses not to comply with the request," wrote Frederic W. Knaak. Earlier he argued: "We strongly believe that the requested activities, to be undertaken at taxpayer expense, are wholly outside of the jurisdictional scope of an administrative recount but, instead, constitute initial discovery steps in an election contest under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 209."
That Coleman's camp would accuse the Secretary of State of acting improperly may hinge on legal wording. From a public relations standpoint, it leaves the suggestion that the Minnesota Republican believes he would actually be hurt by more votes being counted. The state's recount process has had its fair share of administrative errors, including the misplacement or loss of hundreds of ballots. Certainly, these missteps have the potential to determine the winner of a race that -- according to the Franken campaign -- is currently down to a mere four votes.
The counties have sifted through the majority of the rejected absentee ballots, and the Secretary of States office has determined that out of a pool of 12,000, roughly 500 to 1,000 may have been unlawfully dismissed. On Friday, the canvassing board will decided what to do with this group and could very well punt on the issue. If that is the case, the United States Senate could pick up the matter of sorting out the recount victor -- as has been endlessly speculated in Minnesota's political circles and the press.