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Scott Wente, Published April 01 2009

Coleman to appeal Senate lawsuit

ST. PAUL – Norm Coleman will appeal his U.S. Senate election lawsuit to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

A state judicial panel’s decision to count up to 400 disputed absentee votes means Minnesota’s unresolved Senate race will end up in the high court, Coleman’s attorney said Tuesday evening.

“We’re going to appeal,” Ben Ginsberg said.

Shortly after the court released an order Tuesday stating it would count the ballots, the former senator’s attorney said the decision leaves Coleman no choice but to ask the Supreme Court to review a decision that is expected to leave the Republican trailing Democrat Al Franken.

“We just think they’re wrong,” Ginsberg said of the district court judges. “We think that it is wrong to disenfranchise voters. We think it is fundamentally wrong to sort of sweep the problems of this election under the rug.”

Franken leads Coleman by 225 votes. With many of the still uncounted ballots coming from Democrat-heavy St. Louis, Ramsey and Hennepin counties, the Coleman camp has all but given up on its hopes of winning in this legal round.

The three judges who heard a seven-week election lawsuit were Kurt Marben of Pennington County, Elizabeth Hayden of Stearns County and Denise Reilly of Hennepin County.

The court’s order includes only a fraction of the uncounted ballots that Coleman’s campaign wanted reviewed.

“Many Minnesotans will remain disenfranchised,” Ginsberg said.

The three-judge panel on Tuesday ordered county officials to send 400 ballots to the secretary of state’s office by Monday. The judges are to open and count at least some of the ballots in open court a week from today.

The judges’ job is to determine which candidate received the most votes. The losing candidate has 10 days to file an appeal following the three-judge panel’s decision.

Franken attorney Marc Elias stopped short of declaring victory, but in a conference call with Minnesota reporters from his Washington office obviously was happy.

“We feel pretty good about where we stand, but we will wait for Tuesday,” Elias said.

Wente and Davis work for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. They can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or swente@forumcomm.com and ddavis@forumcomm.com