Al Wins the Vote

The three judges counting the votes have declared Al Franken ahead by 312 votes.  The Washington Post  reports

A Minnesota court confirmed Monday that Democrat Al Franken won the most votes in his 2008 Senate race against Republican Norm Coleman, who had already announced plans to appeal the decision.

Coleman has 10 days to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Once the petition is filed, it could further delay the seating of Minnesota’s second senator for weeks.

After a statewide recount and seven-week trial, Franken stands 312 votes ahead. He gained more votes from the election challenge than Coleman, the candidate who brought the legal action.

“The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the November 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately,” the judges wrote. “There is no evidence of a systematic problem of disenfranchisement in the state’s election system, including in its absentee-balloting procedures.”

So now Coleman can appeal, but there appear to be some potential problems looming there.  TPM reported ealier today that one of the judges on the Minnesota Supreme Court contributed to the Coleman campaign.

In the years before he was appointed to the state bench, Christopher Dietzen was a private attorney and occasional Republican donor, including a check for $250 to Coleman in December 2001, and another $250 for the current cycle in January 2004. The Hill also points out Dietzen served as a campaign counsel for GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, during the 2002 open-seat race.

A spokesman for the state Supreme Court told TPM that no information is available about any possible recusal. Since there hasn’t been an actual ruling in the trial, much less the filing of an appeal, we don’t know and cannot predict what would happen.

The contributions were made before appointment which may make a difference.  In addition Eric Kleefeld, the author of the story points out

The question here is the degree to which Dietzen’s pre-judicial activities might impact the legitimacy of the proceedings. For my own part, having watched all the legal arguments in this election, I haven’t noticed any severe or obvious political bias on Dietzen’s part — he has sometimes ruled against Franken, and sometimes ruled against Coleman. And he’s pitched tough questions at both sides.

The whole Minnesota Senate election gets curiouser and curiouser.

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