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Coleman will file suit over Senate recount

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Norm Coleman announces legal action
Norm Coleman announced at a press conference on Tuesday that he is filing suit over the results of the recount in the U.S. Senate race. The recount numbers give his DFL opponent, Al Franken, a 225-vote lead.
MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki

Senator Norm Coleman, whose first term officially expired on Saturday, made the announcement himself about the lawsuit, surrounded in a room at the State Office Building  by more than 100 supporters.

"As of today, not every valid vote has been counted and some have been counted twice and so today I'm announcing that I've instructed my legal team to file an election contest according to Minnesota law," Coleman said.

The lawsuit will trigger the selection of a three-judge panel that will hear the Coleman campaign's arguments that the recount was inaccurate. It will be much like any other court case. That means there will be a discovery phase in which evidence will be identified and introduced in preparation for the actual trial. 

For weeks the Coleman campaign has alleged that some about 130 duplicate ballots were counted twice, that 133 ballots that disappeared from a Minneapolis precinct should not have been counted at all and that several hundred properly cast absentee ballots were wrongly left out of the recount. Coleman attorney Fritz Knaak said the court challenge is about those issues but has been filed in a way that would allow other issues to be brought forward.

"Something greater than expediency is at stake here. ... speed is not the first objective, fairness is."

Knaak said he will not likely seek to redo the entire recount but instead to closely examine portions of the count he insists were flawed. 

"It is our belief that in pursuing this contest we will come to a conclusion on  a number of these open issues," Knaak said. "It is also our belief that these issues will be concluded in a way favorable to our view and indeed to Senator Coleman's view and that  [the] end result of all of this will be that Senator Coleman will indeed be shown to be reelected as the United States Senator."

Knaak said the focus of the litigation now is in state court, but that he believes some of the concerns could also be heard in a federal lawsuit if necessary.

Coleman  said he believes he won and that he was wrong in calling for Franken to concede the day after the Election  when the numbers were running in his favor. 

Coleman sues over recount
Republican Norm Coleman leaves a news conference in St. Paul Tuesday afternoon, after announcing he is filing suit over the results of the recount in the U.S. Senate race. The recount numbers give his DFL opponent, Al Franken, a 225-vote lead.
MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

Coleman insisted his challenge is not a partisan  move but instead is a necessary step to ensure the integrity of the election process. 

"As Americans we believe that every valid vote should count and that every body's vote is equal to everyone else's," Coleman said.  "Democracy is not  a machine. It's run by people working to obey the law as best they can. Sometimes it's messy and inconvenient, and reaching the best conclusion  is never quick because speed is not the first objective, fairness is."

In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called for Coleman to concede. 

Coleman responded: "This race will be determined by Minnesota voters, not by Harry Reid."

Yesterday, Al Franken claimed victory following the certification of the recount. Today Franken attorney Marc Elias dismissed Coleman's legal move saying Coleman's arguments  are familiar and without merit.

"And it is essentially the same thin gruel warmed over, leftovers from meals that we've all be served over the last few weeks," Elias said.

Under state law the election contest trial must begin within 20 days.  It would go on for weeks and appeals could follow its conclusion. 

It will likely be months before Minnesota has a second Senator.