Judicial panel named to hear Minn. Senate lawsuit

Justice Alan Page
Minn. Supreme Court Associate Justice has named a three-judge panel to hear Norm Coleman's election contest.
Photo courtesy of Minn. Judicial Branch

Justice Alan Page has chosen a three-judge panel to hear Norm Coleman's election contest.

They are:

  • Elizabeth Hayden of Stearns County who was appointed by DFL Governor Rudy Perpich in 1986;

  • Kurt Marben of Thief River Falls who was appointed by Independent Jesse Ventura in 2000, and

  • Denise Reilly of Hennepin County who was appointed by Republican Arne Carlson in 1997.

Meanwhile Democrat Al Franken's campaign today says it's answering Norm Coleman's lawsuit with its own list of wrongfully-rejected ballots that it wants the court to consider.

Coleman filed a lawsuit last week contesting the Senate election and told the court it could prove election officials double-counted some ballots and under-counted others.

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In that suit, Coleman contested the state Canvassing Board's certification that Franken received 225 more votes in the Senate recount. In addition, the Coleman campaign contended the Canvassing Board erred in determining voter intent on challenged ballots and that some voters who weren't eligible to vote, did.

Franken's attorney Marc Elias says the campaign disagrees with Coleman's counting of challenged ballots and calls the suit riddled with errors, vague, and a rehashing of old arguments.

Nevertheless, Elias says the Franken campaign has identified other ballots wrongfully rejected.

"In our counter-claims we wanted to bring to the court in a very specific way, not in a general way, not included but not limited to, or by example, as a lot of this was pled by the Coleman campaign. We wanted to bring to their attention the concerns we have as well about ballots that ought to be counted," said Elias.

The Franken campaign says there are at least three categories of ballots that election officials did not count but should have:

  • 35 ballots in Duluth the Coleman campaign rejected for improperly verified signatures;

  • 87 ballots that the campaign says it has evidence with affidavits, and

  • another 700 ballots it believes were improperly rejected.

The Coleman campaign's attorney Fritz Knaak says he's not surprised Franken would raise more questionable ballots:

"I would expect to see as many as 5 or 6 thousand absentee ballots brought into this process. There's a lot that's going to be discussed that was not and could not be dealt with at the recount phase. They know that and they're absolutely entitled to bring some issues they want raised to the process and we expect that," said Knaak.

The Franken campaign is also helping several dozen voters mount their own lawsuits to have their absentee ballots counted as part of the process.

Franken's attorneys also sent letters to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Ritchie to certify the election, because a seven-day waiting period had passed. Both Pawlenty and Ritchie said state law bars them from signing the certificate while an election contest is underway.