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Al Franken gets boost over Norm Coleman in Senate race

Minnesota judges say Coleman hasn't shown a widespread absentee-vote problem.

February 14, 2009|Associated Press

ST. PAUL, MINN. — The judges in Minnesota's U.S. Senate trial said in a preliminary ruling Friday that Republican Norm Coleman had not yet shown a widespread problem with absentee voters being denied the right to vote.

The three-judge panel ordered that rejected absentee ballots from 12 of 19 categories should not be counted in the Senate race.

Coleman, who is trying to undo Democrat Al Franken's 225-vote lead, had wanted to count ballots in all but three of the categories.

Coleman had argued that thousands of rejected absentee ballots were excluded inconsistently and should be counted, but Friday's ruling would limit the total number of ballots to be reviewed for counting.

"The facts presented thus far do not show a wholesale disenfranchisement of absentee voters in the 2008 general election," wrote judges Elizabeth Hayden, Kurt Marben and Denise Reilly.

Coleman's lawyers argued that as many as 4,800 rejected absentee ballots should be counted in the race. It was not immediately clear how many are now off-limits because of the judges' order, but the judges had signaled it may not be a very large number.

Coleman's attorneys said Friday they believe about 3,500 rejected absentee ballots still remain in the trial. Marc Elias, Franken's attorney, said he couldn't yet estimate how many rejected ballots had been struck from consideration.

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