ST. PAUL, Minn. – Democrat Al Franken's Senate campaign, trailing slightly just before a statewide recount, argued Monday that a key Minnesota election board should examine rejected absentee ballots before certifying the race results.
Those ballots are at the heart of legal and procedural disputes that have emerged as the near-deadlocked election moves into this week's manual recount of more than 2.9 million ballots.
Republican Sen. Norm Coleman leads by 206 votes — a lead so slim that it triggered the automatic recount.
Franken's legal team contends that eligible voters shouldn't have ballots excluded on "mere technicalities" and requests that the state canvassing Board examine rejected absentee ballots. The team is bolstering its argument with four sworn affidavits from people who believe their absentee ballots were improperly set aside.
The canvassing board is made up of the secretary of state, two Supreme Court justices and two district judges.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, said Franken's request will be considered along with any others the campaigns bring forward.
Last week, Franken filed a lawsuit attempting to force counties to release rosters of voters whose absentee ballots were invalidated. His campaign says it would use the information to investigate whether the rejections were proper. A hearing on that case is set for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday — 90 minutes after some counties start the recount.
Franken's advisers say they know of hundreds of voided absentee ballots based on their surveys of Minnesota counties that voluntarily supplied information, but they wouldn't give a precise number.
Coleman's campaign has argued that such disclosures would violate voter privacy, a position shared by the county attorneys refusing to release it.
One of the affidavits is from James Langland of Thief River Falls, who voted absentee in person because he was traveling on Election Day. Langland said he was told his ballot was invalidated because it lacked proper documentation. He said he learned nine days after the election that a county official failed to sign the envelope.
Langland said in the document that he voted for Franken, as did the other three voters who submitted sworn statements.
Minnesota law says that absentee ballots can be rejected if they include an address inconsistent with the application; if there are questions about a signature by the voter or witness; if the voter isn't eligible to vote in that precinct; or if the person had completed another ballot.
© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The