Tags: minnesota | coleman | franken

Official: Minn. Voters 'Absolutely' Disenfranchised

Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 10:59 PM

By David A. Patten

GOP Sen. Norm Coleman’s attorneys pried a key admission from Minnesota’s assistant secretary of state Wednesday, who said some voters “absolutely” had their votes improperly taken away during the controversial recount that awarded the lead to Democratic challenger Al Franken.

“It’s something I had no control over,” testified election official Jim Gelbmann, referring to a controversial ruling that effectively gave each campaign the right to veto absentee ballots that they didn’t want counted. “It was an order by the Supreme Court.”

Gelbmann’s admission on day three of the election contest, which is being tried in St. Paul before a three-judge panel, appeared to support contentions of the Coleman legal team that the recount process was seriously flawed.

Coleman’s attorneys say different standards on what constituted a valid vote were applied throughout the state. They also maintain some ballots were counted twice.

Franken’s legal team has admitted the process wasn’t perfect, but they say any errors were minor and would not justify changing the election’s outcome. The recount began with Coleman holding a 215-vote lead, and concluded with him trailing Franken by 225 votes.

During Gelbmann’s cross examination, Franken’s lawyers stormed back, eliciting testimony that suggested Coleman’s team only raised concerns over rejected absentee ballots after it fell behind in the vote count.

Gelbmann’s testimony also suggested Coleman’s team initially had agreed to vote recount procedures that they later found objectionable.

Two important issues remain pending before the panel. The first is how to go about collecting original, rejected absentee ballots from city and county election officials statewide. It became necessary to obtain the actual ballots when the court upheld a Franken motion on Monday that copies of the ballots were inadequate.

The second issue pending is a motion to restrict the review of ballots to the 654 that Coleman initially said has been improperly rejected.

“I doubt the court will grant that motion,” Sarah Cherry, an election law expert observing the election contest, tells Newsmax. “They have been pretty generous in allowing all the evidence in, but have noted that they, of course, will only give the evidence they think it observes.”

It is believed the Coleman-Franken election contest will continue into mid-February, and possibly into March.

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