A three-judge panel has dealt a blow to Norm Coleman’s efforts to retake the lead in the Minnesota Senate race, putting at most 400 ballots in play — far fewer than what the Republican pushed for during the seven-week recount trial.
In its third week of deliberations, the court issued a ruling Tuesday afternoon ordering absentee ballots to be turned over to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office by April 6. The ballots would then by be counted in open court by April 7.
In the minutes after the ruling was issued, Democrats began trumpeting the decision, saying that Coleman’s ability now to retake the lead is a tall order. Franken currently holds a 225 vote edge.
"We are obviously pleased," said Mark Elias, chief legal counsel for Franken, in a conference call with reporters.
Conversely, a GOP staffer close to Coleman said: “It’s not looking good.”
Both camps are holding conference calls over the next hour to spin the results and discuss what happens next.
Coleman was widely expected to lose before the three-judge panel, and is probably going to appeal the order to the state Supreme Court. If he loses before the state court, Coleman would have the option of appealing directly to the U.S. Supreme Court — or file a brand new suit in a federal district court. His attorney has scheduled a 6pm conference call.
“This means we’re going to the [state] Supreme Court and, if need be, the federal courts,” the Coleman source said.
In the ruling, the court determined that the 400 ballots should be counted “based upon a thorough review of the evidence and a finding that the voter complied with Minnesota law,” as well as ballots with “relevant information” that was redacted or illegible and absentee ballots were the court requires the original to make a finding.
“To be clear, not every absentee ballot identified in this order will be ultimately be opened and counted," the ruling said.
And making matters even murkier for Coleman is that the order appears to identify ballots that both sides wanted opened.
POLITICO's Glenn Thrush contributed to this report.