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Scott Wente, Published January 28 2009

Coleman turns to Minn. voters in trial

ST. PAUL – Gerald Anderson climbed from his wheelchair and walked slowly to the witness stand.

But Anderson, who said he is blind and disabled, was quick to tell those watching Minnesota’s U.S. Senate election trial that he has voted for many years, so he could not understand why his absentee ballot was discarded in the recent election.

The St. Paul man said his wife’s ballot was counted while his was rejected.

“We thought it would be a good idea, so we did it,” the 75-year-old Anderson said of voting absentee, “and I’m sorry we did because of what happened. (My) vote wasn’t counted.”

A signature problem prevented Anderson’s vote from being counted. He was a witness for Norm Coleman’s campaign, which says many absentee ballots were wrongly rejected.

“I want it back,” Anderson insisted of his ballot. “I’m entitled to my vote.”

The trial’s second day saw the first of what could be hundreds of witnesses – voters, county auditors and election workers – who could testify during the proceeding.

The campaigns of Coleman and Democrat Al Franken each have identified about 150 people as possible witnesses. Coleman’s team began by calling about a half-dozen voters as it tries to argue that the three judges hearing the case should include thousands of new votes in the election tally.

Coleman again attended the trial Tuesday, sitting alongside his team of attorneys.

“Today we saw the human side of this and that’s what this is really about,” Coleman said afterward.

Coleman filed the lawsuit, known as an election contest, to challenge the recount results showing Franken won by 225 votes. The Republican, whose Senate term ended early this month, says rejected absentee ballots were not treated the same way across the state.

In addition to voters, Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg called Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann as a witness. Gelbmann was asked at length about how local officials handle absentee ballots. Friedberg also asked about specific ballot issues in Clay, Pennington, Washington and Dakota counties. In those counties, ballots were initially rejected but after further review were included in the recount. No officials from those counties testified, but may in the coming days or weeks.

The trial, which got off to a rough start Monday, did not resume until early Tuesday afternoon. The three judges spent the morning meeting privately with campaign attorneys and state election officials to discuss trial evidence.


Wente works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or swente@forumcomm.com