Franken tries to pare Coleman ballot list


One by one, Democrat Al Franken's attorneys are casting doubt over the viability of uncounted absentee ballots that Republican Norm Coleman wants included in the Minnesota Senate race tally.

In trial Tuesday, Franken lawyer David Lillehaug worked to show that nearly 80 ballots that Coleman believes should count were properly rejected. All were initially turned away because the voter's witness was deemed unqualified.

Also this morning, Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg called Kay Mack, Beltrami County's top election official, to the witness stand.

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Throughout the five weeks of trial, Coleman's team has tried to show that election officials around the state created a systemic problem by using different standards for rejecting absentee ballots. He's trying to get several thousand rejected ballots counted in an effort to overcome Franken's lead.

On Monday, Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said his side expects to finish presenting evidence in the U.S. Senate recount trial by the end of the week.

Ginsberg said his camp will not be calling any more voters to the stand. They do expect to call a few more elections officials from around the state, including Cindy Reichert, Minneapolis' top election official, he said.

The three judges hearing the case -- Elizabeth Hayden, Kurt Marben and Denise Reilly -- have not said how many of those ballots they will ultimately open and add to the final tally.

But attorneys for both camps on Monday agreed the court will likely end up accepting between 2,000 and 2,500 ballots from the Coleman side into evidence.

"I think it is fair to say that 2,200 to 2,500 will represent the high water mark of this, and that their universe will continue to contract from there," Franken attorney Marc Elias said. "I suspect when all is said and done, we'll be looking at something considerably smaller."

Over the weekend, Franken attorneys filed their own papers identifying about 1,600 rejected absentee ballots they want the court to consider in the count. About half of those also appear on Coleman's list.

Meanwhile, the three-judge panel hearing the case must still decide whether to grant a request by Coleman to stop state officials from redacting -- or removing -- voter information from the envelopes of 933 counted absentee ballots.

Doing so would allow the Coleman campaign to challenge absentee ballots that were counted by the State Canvassing Board in the statewide recount that gave Franken the lead.

Officials with the Secretary of State's office said last week they have already redacted about half of the 933 ballots in question.

The three judges on the panel have not made any comments outside of court since the trial began nearly a month ago.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)