Week three of Republican Norm Coleman's U.S. Senate recount contest started Monday with attorneys for Democrat Al Franken objecting to the way Coleman is presenting his case.
The three-judge panel overruled the objection after a 20-minute, midmorning break. The judges agreed to meet with attorneys from both sides later today to figure out how to expedite the process.
Coleman's attorneys are working through about 4,700 rejected absentee ballots, one at a time, as a way to present evidence in hopes that judges will add them to the tally.
In his objection, Franken attorney David Lillehaug said Coleman's attorneys aren't following the trial rules.
Lillehaug said Coleman's attorneys are supposed to identify in advance their argument for why an individual ballot should be accepted. He also said the process of reviewing ballots individually is "extraordinarily inefficient."
"The problem here is the contestant hasn't sat down and figured out which ballots they're really going to pursue and which ones they are not," Lillehaug told the judges.
Lillehaug pointed out that as Friedberg has questioned county election officials, he has often withdrawn some ballots on the fly if it's obvious the rejection was valid. He said Coleman should have to weed out those ballots in advance, and that doing so would make the trial proceed faster.
"It's why, after two weeks, we're only through part of Ramsey, Washington, Anoka, and little Pine County," Lillehaug argued. That leaves Coleman's attorneys 83 more counties to get through.
Friedberg countered that Coleman had wanted to argue for ballots in several broad categories. That plan fell apart when, in the trial's first week, Franken objected to Coleman using pen-marked photocopies of the ballots as evidence.
"I would still like to go back and do this category by category - we could do it in 10 percent of the time," Friedberg said. "I do not have any great desire to go county by county."
Coleman's attorney James Langdon said Lillehaug was grandstanding, and they've given Franken all the information they have.
"If they're really curious as to how many of these we are interested in, the short answer is all of them," Langdon told the panel.
After meeting privately, the judges overruled the objection. But Judge Kurt Marben said they would meet privately with lawyers from both sides later today to talk about to "see if there is a more expedient way to proceed with the evidence in this case."
After that, Friedberg began the ballot-by-ballot review with Dakota County's Kevin Boyle.
The judges have set out two categories where they'll consider counting rejected absentees: those where it appeared the voter met the legal requirements, and those where they might have run afoul of the law through no fault of their own.
Coleman's attorneys say about 3,100 of their ballots fall in the first category, and about 1,600 fall in the second. But Lillehaug complained that Coleman's attorneys aren't saying in detail why the ballots qualify for one of those classifications.
The judges will meet with both sides later today to address the trial procedures.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)