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Don Davis, Published February 02 2009

Minnesota U.S. Senate trial heads into its second week

ST. PAUL – The U.S. Senate election contest bore into absentee voting policies today as the trial entered a second week.

The Norm Coleman and Al Franken campaigns returned to the third-floor Minnesota Judicial Center courtroom this morning to continue litigating Coleman’s election challenge. The Republican’s lawsuit claims the tally showing that Democrat Franken won the election by 225 votes was flawed.

Coleman was in court this morning, as he has been for each trial day. Franken will not attend the trial, his campaign said.

Franken attorney Kevin Hamilton questioned Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky about how local election officials decided whether to accept absentee ballots on Election Day and then during a second absentee ballot review that was part of the statewide recount.

After Mansky acknowledged to a Coleman attorney last week that there remain uncounted but validly cast absentee ballots, Franken’s team attempted this morning to highlight specific absentee ballots that Coleman representatives had blocked from being included in the recount, even though local officials said they should have been counted.

Each campaign prevented some previously rejected absentee ballots from being included in the recount.

Coleman’s lawsuit claims that absentee ballots with similar problems, such as voter signature or registration issues, were treated differently by election officials around the state. It wants about 11,000 rejected absentee ballots reviewed by the three-judge panel presiding over the trial.

Courtroom activity was delayed this morning as the three judges met behind closed doors with the campaigns’ legal teams to discuss the trial schedule.

The campaigns and trial observers are awaiting orders from the three judges that could determine the scope of the trial.