Hang It Up, Norm

Hang It Up, Norm

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

“After a trial spanning nearly three months, Norm Coleman’s attempt to reverse Al Franken’s lead in the recount of the U.S. Senate election was soundly rejected today by a three-judge panel that dismissed the Republican’s lawsuit.

The judges swept away Coleman’s argument that the election and its aftermath were fraught with systemic errors that made the results invalid.

“The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the Nov. 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately,” the panel said in its unanimous decision.

In rejecting Coleman’s arguments, the panel said the Republican essentially asked it to ignore Minnesota election requirements and adopt a more lenient standard allowing illegal absentee ballots to be counted.”

The court’s decision is here (pdf). Coleman’s lawyers have announced that he will appeal this decision to the State Supreme Court. Rick Hasen thinks that Coleman is not likely to win that appeal; certainly, Franken’s margin is now sufficient to withstand losses on some of Coleman’s most promising points (e.g., the 132 missing ballots from Minneapolis 3-1.) But neither that fact nor the fact that Coleman has been ordered to pay court costs will necessarily determine what happens next:

“While some election law experts say it’s unlikely that Coleman, a Republican, could win in federal court, his party might have much to gain. A federal challenge could leave a Minnesota U.S. Senate seat vacant for another six months or more, depriving Democrats of a vote needed to pass some of President Obama’s agenda in the event of GOP filibusters.

The success of such a “scorched-earth” strategy, as one political scientist dubs a federal appeal, depends heavily on the definition of state courts.”

Norm Coleman has a legal right to appeal this case. But that doesn’t mean that exercising that right is the right thing to do. At some point, when the chances of winning get sufficiently remote, a person who cared about his state would think: I am depriving my state of its normal complement of Congressional representatives. In so doing, I am harming my state, and I am doing so in order to prolong a lawsuit that I am very unlikely to win. It’s time to hang it up.

In my judgment, we’ve reached that point. Five months is long enough.