Election official's testimony to continue in recount trial

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The Secretary of State's right hand man, Jim Gelbmann, has been fielding questions from both sides in the case since late Tuesday.

On Wednesday, he testified the entire day about the intricacies of how the ballot recount process unfolded, which local election officials called when there were precincts with problems, and what were election officials trained to do.

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Gelbmann's testimony was about more than educating the court. Both sides wanted to get him to testify about issues that would support their cases. For most of the time, there was no narrative and both sides jumped around from issue to issue.

Coleman's attorney, Joe Friedberg, appeared to be using Gelbmann's testimony to support the Coleman camp's contention that election officials did not treat similar ballots the same way, and therefore some voters were disenfranchised.

Gelbmann testified about the December Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that ordered election officials and the campaigns to identify wrongly-rejected absentee ballots.

Friedberg held a list of absentee votes that election officials thought should be counted but weren't, because one of the candidates' representatives refused to agree.

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"So based on the candidates' representative's own desires and motives, the people whose votes weren't counted were disenfranchised, correct?" Friedberg asked.

"That is correct, and that was pursuant to the Supreme Court order," Gelbmann answered.

Representing Democrat Al Franken, David Lillehaug asked Gelbmann to read numerous e-mails and memos written by Coleman's campaign to the Secretary of State's office, to try to show that Coleman switched positions on a number of issues once the vote tally flipped in Franken's favor.

Initially, the Coleman campaign asked that 654 absentee ballots be reviewed, but more recently that number has grown to 11,000 and then changed to about 4,500.

Attorney David Lillehaug
Attorney David Lillehaug during the afternoon session questioned Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann about absentee ballots in Scott County.
AP Pool-Star Tribune/Richard Sennott

The Franken campaign has argued that Coleman should stay with its original request, and that anything more is a fishing expedition in hopes of erasing Franken's 225-vote lead.

Lillehaug brought up an e-mail from Coleman's attorney, Tony Trimble, to Gelbmann and the secretary of state's office, originally asking for 654 ballots.

"Do you remember any discussion that day or any correspondence that day, verbal or written from the Coleman campaign, talking about counting 11,000 absentee ballots?" asked Lillehaug. "Do you remember any discussion that day, or anything in writing, in respect to the possibility of opening and counting and additional 4,500 ballots?"

"No," Gelbmann answered.

Gelbmann will continue his testimony this morning beginning at 9 a.m.

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