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Scott Wente, Published January 31 2009

Coleman: Trial hinges on rights of Minnesota voters

ST. PAUL – It is about voters, not the candidates, Norm Coleman’s campaign argued in the opening week of Minnesota’s Senate election trial.

Coleman wants to show three judges in the trial that his lawsuit challenging Al Franken’s victory in the Senate recount boils down to Minnesotans’ right to have their votes counted.

So during the trial’s first five days, the campaign brought more than a half-dozen voters to testify that their absentee ballots were rejected when they should have been counted.

The campaigns have separate lists of additional voters and local election officials whom they could call to testify in the coming weeks. Each list contains about 150 names.

The trial resumes Monday morning.

“We think this case has come to be about the voters’ interest and not either candidate’s interests,” Coleman attorney Jim Langdon told the judges Friday during a discussion of whether some absentee ballots should be counted.

Democrat Franken’s attorney Marc Elias dismissed the notion that each side just wants favorable votes counted.

“I think everyone in that courtroom is working to make sure this trial plays out in as fair a fashion as possible,” Elias said.

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