Al Franken's Senate campaign, beaming a bit from last week's announcement that counties should count wrongfully rejected absentee ballots, accused Sen. Norm Coleman of trying to shut down the recount by appealing that very decision.
In a conference call with reporters, Franken's chief counsel, Marc Elias, argued that the Minnesota Republican was going through incredible and "desperate" measures in order to stop the counting of ballots that had been deemed lawfully cast.
"They are suing because they are behind," he said, noting that the Associated Press did an analysis this weekend in which they determined that Franken would likely win the election after all the challenged ballots were fettered out. "The numbers are what they are. And as I said Friday, desperate times call for desperate measures. What we see is a cynical and desperate attempt by the Coleman campaign to stop this train from moving."
Noting that canvassing board -- which decided that the wrongfully rejected absentee ballots should be counted -- included two Republican members of the state Supreme Court, two county justices and the state Attorney General, Elias accused the Coleman campaign of playing cynical politics. If the Senator's appeal of the canvassing board's decision was rooted in honest concerns, he added, it would mean that he was accusing the state's chief legal officials of acting unconstitutionally.
"The Coleman camp would have you to believe that the Secretary of State convened a meeting invited two Ramsey County justices, two representatives from the Supreme Court, one of whom was the chief justice, and to throw some spice in the gumbo, the chief law enforcement officer -- the Attorney General," said Elias, "... and low and behold he got them to do something that the Coleman campaign thinks is unconstitutional."
On Friday, the Coleman campaign filed a suit with the state Supreme Court appealing the decision to count the roughly 1,500 unlawfully rejected absentee ballots. The Senator claimed canvassing board's decision would mean that there was no longer a uniform standard for counting votes -- a notion that Elias strongly disputed.
"There are four legitimate reasons to reject an absentee ballot, and if the ballot doesn't meet those four reasons it ought to be counted," he said.
The Senator may have hurt his cause when, in the motion filed to the Supreme Court, he asked that county election officials and county canvassing boards "take no additional actions related to the rejected absentee ballots" until a decision on those ballots was made.
"In plain English what they asked the court was 'stop the counting'," said Elias, somewhat animated. "Let's call this what it is, the Coleman camp went to the highest court in the state to stop the counting."
The Supreme Court will rule on the canvassing board's decision within the next few weeks (though the schedule has not been finalized). The two justices who serve on both the canvassing board and the court will recuse themselves form the hearing. Should the court uphold the canvassing board's decision, the chances of a Franken victory become much more likely. But as it stands now, the Democratic challenger projects that he will finish the recount process with a four or eight vote lead even without these votes.