Setback for Coleman at Minnesota Senate recount trial

Joe Friedberg, Ben Ginsberg, Tony Trimble
Norm Coleman attorneys Ben Ginsberg, right, Tony Trimble, left and Joe Friedberg confer during the Senate recount trial Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 in St. Paul, Minn.
AP Photo/Jim Mone, pool

Another setback for Republican Norm Coleman at the Minnesota Senate recount trial -- and it could be a big one.

The judges have thrown out the testimony of a Minneapolis poll worker who claimed to witness errors that could have caused double counting of votes.

The poll worker had supplied materials to Coleman's legal team that weren't given to lawyers for Democrat Al Franken. The judges found that a violation of civil trial procedures.

The disqualification of Pamela Howell's testimony could have big ramifications.

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Howell, an acknowledged Republican, served as an election judge in Minneapolis. She's the only Coleman witness who said she was present when duplicated ballots without proper markings were fed through counting machines.

Attorney Ben Ginsberg
Ben Ginsberg, an attorney for Republican Norm Coleman, holds one of the ballots he says St. Louis County allowed to be counted on Election Night that are identical to ballots the three-judge panel hearing the recount trial ruled "illegal" in it's ruling on Feb. 13 that limited the categories of ballots it will consider.
MPR Photo/Elizabeth Baier

1:50 p.m.

Attorneys for Coleman are asking the three-judge panel to allow e-mailed information from county elections officials into evidence.

But attorneys for Democrat Al Franken submitted a motion this morning asking the judges not to allow the e-mails. They say doing so would eliminate the opportunity for cross-examination.

Coleman attorney James Langdon argues the court should consider the e-mails as legitimate and trustworthy sources of evidence.

"What we have done with this request is trying to avoid having to bring these people in, ask them to provide us information, or to certify the absence of information. That is completely within the normal course of what they do," said Langdon.

The judges are expected to rule on the motion in the next few days.

This afternoon, Minneapolis elections director Cindy Reichert was scheduled to be called as a witness. She is an important figure because her city was a flashpoint in the recount that gave Democrat Al Franken his 225-vote advantage.

Reichert will face questions about a packet of ballots declared missing during the recount. To compensate for the 133 ballots said to be lost, the state went with Election Night numbers for the precinct.

That decision kept Franken from losing 46 net votes.

Coleman's team also wants Reichert to explain the handling of damaged ballots for which new copies were fed through counting machines.

Coleman's lawsuit argues that both versions of such ballots wound up in the recount and gave some people two votes.

Coleman's attorneys also say it's now unlikely they'll be able to finish presenting their case by the end of the week. Attorney Ben Ginsberg says the trial has been delayed because they haven't completed questioning Gary Poser, the state's top election official.