The legal side of a recount

With officials beginning the herculean task of manually recounting almost 3 million ballots yesterday, Minnesotans are forced to sit back and wonder how the Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken will play out. The race could become a legal marathon. Once all of the ballots are counted, the most likely ending is that one of the two candidates will win, and consequently be named senator, University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs said. âÄúThe likely scenario is we will have three weeks of a recount and it will be very lively,âÄù Jacobs said. âÄúThe process will play out.âÄù But with Coleman leading by only 215 votes, the two candidates wonâÄôt kick back and wait for all the ballots to be counted. Throughout the next few weeks they can challenge the election process, but must leave the specific recount process and contested ballots to the state canvassing board. Still, the legal jockeying has already begun. After filing a lawsuit against the Ramsey County election manager last week, Franken has secured the names and addresses of all absentee voters whose ballots were rejected. âÄúA contested election is another likely scenario,âÄù Jacobs said. âÄúIt will be focused on challenges by the Coleman and Franken campaigns, and you can already see where itâÄôs heading.âÄù But the end of the recount doesnâÄôt necessarily mean the end of the race, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. When all the votes are counted, each candidate will have a seven day window to legally challenge the election or recount process. âÄúThereâÄôs no limit to what they can challenge, they could contest any and all aspects of the election,âÄù Ritchie said. âÄúBut we plan on doing a great Minnesota job so that wonâÄôt have to happen.âÄù There is also a possibility that legal challenges from either candidate could end up in the Minnesota Supreme Court. If either candidate claims the recount process violates state law, the case could go to the Minnesota Supreme Court at the highest, University law professor and expert in the American political system Dale Carpenter said. The United States Supreme Court will probably not be involved in the election unless one of the candidates claim the election process violated constitutional rights. âÄúState recounts donâÄôt end up in the Supreme Court,âÄù Carpenter said. MinnesotaâÄôs well-organized recount system will limit the amount of controversy when the election finally ends, Jacobs said. âÄúBased on Mark RitchieâÄôs behavior, I think heâÄôs handled this very well,âÄù Jacobs said. âÄúFor people who are anxious about the election being stolen, thatâÄôs not whatâÄôs going to happen here.âÄù Despite accusations of trying to delay the recount from the Coleman campaign, Marc Elias , FrankenâÄôs lead recount attorney, said he has full confidence in the recount process. âÄúThe entire teamâÄôs strategy is to let this process work out,âÄù Elias said. âÄúWe are confident that that process is going to work.âÄù After the first day of the recount, some counties have already finished and there have been an unusually small amount of contested ballots, Ritchie said.