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Brian Bakst, Published March 05 2009

Franken pushes to toss Coleman's Minnesota Senate lawsuit

ST. PAUL (AP) – Democrat Al Franken called Thursday for dismissal of Republican Norm Coleman’s lawsuit challenging the Minnesota Senate recount, saying the fight had gone on long enough and Coleman hadn’t proved his case.

The motion for dismissal filed by his lawyers could be argued before a three-judge panel on Friday. It contends that Coleman has failed to meet his burden of proof that would enable him to overcome Franken’s 225-vote lead.

Coleman’s team said such a motion is standard fare in a civil court case and shouldn’t be given much weight. “Motions to dismiss at this stage are kind of what lawyers do. They did what lawyers do,” said Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg.

Short of full dismissal, the motion said, portions of the case should be tossed.

“Having permitted contestants five weeks to put on their case, the court should now effectuate the state’s long-standing, declared commitment to expedient election contests,” Franklin’s motion said.

The motion goes point-by-point through Coleman’s lawsuit and disputes the validity of the former senator’s claims on double-counted ballots and other vote-counting irregularities.

The filing also said Coleman failed to show the vast majority of rejected absentee ballots it included were properly cast.

Coleman rested his case on Monday. Coleman had argued for the inclusion of nearly 3,700 ballots, but his lawyers have acknowledged that the actual number he wants counted has dwindled to 2,000 or so. Franken argued Thursday that only nine of those are potentially worth counting – a tiny fraction of the 225 Coleman needs to pick up.

Franken lawyer Marc Elias told reporters there might be a small number of additional ballots deemed eligible through other avenues. “However you slice it, you’re talking about dozens,” Elias said. “You’re not talking about hundreds.”

Ginsberg disputed Franken’s motion and the claim that only nine votes were still in play. “The fuzzy math of Washington seems to have wended its way to Minnesota,” he said. The Coleman team is due to file it’s formal reply Friday morning.

Ginsberg said that written “offers of proof” given to the judges outside regular evidence submissions contain much of the material Franken’s campaign said was lacking for many of the rejected absentees submitted by Coleman’s team.

Ginsberg has argued that his side is highlighting inconsistencies across counties in handling absentee ballots, problems with the main state voter database and other flaws in the election that deserve to be seen through to a verdict.

Should the judges rule against Franken’s motion, his attorneys are prepared to continue presenting evidence. That could take another few weeks.

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