The Minnesota Senate Race


Republican Norm Coleman’s dwindling chances of reclaiming his U.S. Senate seat largely depend on a broad reading of the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision, a ruling the court itself said should be applied sparingly.

Coleman’s remaining legal avenues include his claim that election officials violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause by using varying standards to decide the validity of absentee ballots. That contention relies on Bush v. Gore, the 5-4 ruling that sealed the 2000 presidential election for George W. Bush.

Winning with that argument won’t be easy. When the Supreme Court ruled for Bush over Democrat Al Gore on Dec. 12, 2000, the five justices in the majority went out of their way to caution against application of the decision in other contexts.

“Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities,” the majority said.



Filed under Political Reform, Republicans, World Politics

7 responses to “The Minnesota Senate Race

  1. Bush v. Gore when read and applied as intended by the majority (in a very bad decision, IMHO) should have absolutely no application to the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota.

    Clearly, the majority intended the decision to have little to no precedential value; and for Sen. Coleman to otherwise argue is disingenuous. Unfortunately for the residents of Minnesota, the decision contemplates a review of each case on its separate facts by the courts to ascertain any violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment under the facts and circumstances of that particular case. This will be time consuming, as I do not expect SCOTUS to take jurisdiction of the case in the same manner as it did in 2000. A vacant Senate seat doesn’t rise, IMHO, to the same level as a vacancy in the office of POTUS.

    I believe that while the case is under review judicially, there is an argument which may be made that under existing Constitutional provisions, the vacancy may be temporarily filled much as any other vacancy in a Senate seat. While that will not please the Democrats (or Mr. Franken), as Gov. Pawlenty is a Republican, there is a mechanism there. There is no mechanism under the Constitution (other than having the Speaker of the House, perhaps on a temporary basis) similar where the office of the President is concerned.

    • lilacluvr

      But doesn’t the Governor run the risk of alienating the voters that are tired of the Republicans drawing this out?

      While the Republicans may think they are winning this battle, they may just lose the war?

  2. fnord

    Aren’t filling vacancies in offices handled differently by the states? Are you saying in Minnesota the Governor has that responsibility?

    Someplace I read the state’s highest court might order the election to be certified. Is that one of the possibilities? And does this case have to go through the Minnesota Supreme Court before it could even be considered by SCOTUS? I agree with you it’s unlikely SCOTUS would hear the case.

    It’s drug on for months already! With the results so tight there will be an equal number of voters pleased as displeased no matter how it ends. Wonder how much money Coleman is willing to spend to drag this through the courts? Are the rumors of the RNC helping financially true?

  3. lilacluvr

    Actually, the longer the Republicans drag this out, the worse it looks for them. And I did hear that the RNC is financially backing Coleman.

    Even Sam Brownback has urged Coleman to continue fighting it in the courts.

    But I thought Republicans were against any frivolous lawsuits that tie up the courts? I thought they were against activist judges setting precedents?

    My, oh my, is that their hypocrisy showing again?

  4. jammer5

    What gets me about the whole thing is every time the Coleman clan wins getting more ballots counted, he falls further behind. I guess the Republican mind can’t be changed after all.

  5. The court stepped out of bounds when they made their ruling for W, and they know it.
    That’s why they added what amounted to a ‘signing statement’ after doing the wrong thing.

  6. A (very) tepid defense of the involvement of the judiciary in Bush v. Gore.

    The case should never have been heard by SCOTUS. To my mind, there was no federal constitutional issue involved in that case, notwithstanding the SCOTUS decision to the contrary. However, one must remember that the case came before SCOTUS from a decision of the Florida Supreme Court on the issue of the procedure to be followed under the Florida statutes governing recounts. The decision of the Florida Supreme Court was appealed to SCOTUS by Mr. Bush, IIRC.

    The involvement of the Florida Supreme Court was appropriate, as the legal issue involved construction and application of Florida law. That said, once the Florida Supreme Court ruled, I believe the matter returned to a “political question”, a species of litigation that appellate courts are, in general, most reluctant to hear.

    I recognize the skillful arguments of counsel that persuaded a 7-2 majority of SCOTUS that there was an Equal Protection issue, one which was decided narrowly under the facts and circumstances of that case. I further recognize the existence of a real issue in that case; but the issue that existed was, at its foundation, one solely of how to properly conduct a recount under Florida law.

    There were many problems in the Florida law that were brought to light in the case; so many that it was inevitable in a close race such as the 2000 election that someone was going to be in court as soon as the vote count was tallied. One of the major problems with the Florida law was the lack of uniformity in how votes (or intended votes) were to be handled, such being left to the discretion of the several counties. This lack of uniformity is where the majority found the Equal Protection violation, a violation which may have been cured by sending the case back to Florida with instructions to the Florida Supreme Court on setting standards to meet the intent of the legislature (there being no standards set within the statutes themselves) as opposed to the final decree of SCOTUS ending the recounts and thus the election.

    There were other constitutional infirmities found to exist in the case as well, but the major part of the opinion which is apparently sought to be relied upon in Minnesota is the Equal Protection portion (as clearly the other constitutional issues in the case dealt solely with Presidential elections). Given the language of the per curiam opinion, Mr. Coleman should find small solace therein.