Posted: January 3, 2009
Minnesota state canvassing board begins counting absentee ballots
The Secretary of State’s staff is meeting today with campaign representatives to begin counting over 900 absentee ballots that both campaigns agree should not have been rejected. The Supreme Court has, as yet, issued no additional orders in Coleman v. Ritchie in response to Coleman’s petition that seeks to alter the standard for determining which rejected ballots should now be included in the canvass. In the absence of Court action, the counting was set to begin today as originally scheduled. Soon after the meeting began, a recess was called while the opinion of the Attorney General was sought on the question of whether the absentee ballots ought to be marked in a way that makes them identifiable as evidence in potential future litigation. The Coleman campaign’s position was that the Court’s Dec. 24 order did not completely supersede it’s Dec. 18 order which included the requirement to keep the ballots identifiable. The Supreme Court’s order of Dec. 24 had no stipulation that ballots be numbered to preserve evidence and Attorney General Lori Swanson agreed with Franken’s representatives that the Dec. 18 order was superseded by the order of Dec. 24. However, Swanson still recommended that the Secretary’s staff number the ballots because of the strong likelihood of future litigation by one or both of the parties. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbman informed the campaigns of this decision and staff members assured everyone that voter privacy will be preserved. Each ballot is inside a secrecy envelope which is inside a white return envelope. Each of these three pieces will be numbered and the names and numbers will not be made available to the public.