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Franken goes to Supreme Court; voters sue over rejected ballots

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Franken claims Senate win
DFL U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken has claimed victory in the Senate recount, and he is asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to allow him to be seated in the Senate while a court challenge to the results is ongoing.
Jayme Halbritter/Getty Images

The dispute over Minnesota's U.S. Senate race has expanded.  A group of 64 voters filed suit in the Minnesota Supreme Court to have their votes counted.  Meanwhile, Democrat Al Franken asked the court to order the governor and the Secretary of State to sign an election certificate declaring Franken the winner over Republican Norm Coleman. 

Gerry and Joan Ratzlaff said they want their votes counted.  Gerry said he and his wife went to Eagan City Hall to request absentee ballots.

"We took our ballots home for two days, I think it was and voted at home," Gerry Ratzlaff said.

Ratzlaff said he then took their two ballots and his brother-in-law's ballot back to City Hall.

"His counted, because we checked on it. His was counted," he said.  "Ours wasn't, and I gave them to the lady at the same time."

The Ratzlaffs said they were told their ballots were rejected because they weren't registered to vote.  Joan said that can't be the case, since they have been registered to vote for years.

"We did everything right," she said. "We filled out that ballot right.  We signed as witness.  We witnessed each other's, which they said we could do.  We put the address on which she told me that many people forgot."

Joan said later, elections officials told her their ballots weren't accepted because they didn't fill out the absentee ballot application.  But she argued that a proper application had to be filled out to get their absentee ballots in the first place.

"Everybody wants their vote to count," she said.  "It makes me very sad that we voted in the same county since I was 21."

Rejected absentee ballots have been a major part of the recount in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race.  Some of the ballots that were considered wrongly rejected were included in the recount.  But the Ratzlaffs, and many others, say their votes should be counted as well.  

They are part of a lawsuit demanding that the Secretary of State or local elections officials count their votes.  The attorney representing the 64 voters said nearly all of his clients voted for Al Franken.  He added that his firm, Lockgridge, Grindal, Nauen, has worked with the Franken campaign to identify the voters.  

The court filing came on the same day that Franken's campaign requested the Minnesota Supreme Court order Governor Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to sign an election certificate declaring Franken the winner of the Senate race. Pawlenty and Ritchie turned down the Franken campaign's request earlier this week.  

They said state law prevents them from doing so as long as Norm Coleman is still contesting the election in court.  Franken campaign attorney Marc Elias said he doesn't think the law prevents the governor and secretary of state from taking action.  

"All we are seeking is something that all Minnesotans should insist on which is that they have full representation in the United States Senate during this time of great legislative activity in Washington D.C.," Elias said.

The recount finished with Franken ahead by 225 votes.  The Coleman campaign filed an election contest in court last week and Justice Alan Page appointed a three-judge panel to hear the case, which must start in two weeks.  Elias said Franken should be able to serve in the Senate while the lawsuit moves forward. 

The Coleman campaign's attorney, Tony Trimble, called the Franken campaign's petition to the state Supreme Court warped.

"What they're attempting to do is get their foot in the door and hope that once in a seat and once warming a seat they will know that it's very tough for the Senate to boot somebody out of the seat as that's being warmed," Trimble said.

During the recount, the Coleman campaign petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court twice with varying results. Both times, Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Justice G. Barry Anderson recused themselves from those hearings because both were serving on the State Canvassing Board.  It's unclear whether they will recuse themselves from this case.