November 13th, 2008
04:50 PM ET
10 years ago

Franken files suit for data on rejected absentee ballots

Al Franken filed a lawsuit on rejected absentee ballots Thursday.

Al Franken filed a lawsuit on rejected absentee ballots Thursday.

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - Democrat Al Franken's campaign filed a lawsuit Thursday in Ramsey County, Minnesota, requesting the names of all individuals who filed a rejected absentee ballot in the Senate race between the former comedian and incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

Mark Elias, lead recount attorney for Franken, said many absentee ballots are rejected for insufficient reasons, offering the example of an elderly woman who'd suffered a recent stroke which affected her signature, and kept it from matching the one her county had on file.

"This is not a lawsuit about putting ballots in the count or not in the count," Elias said. "This is about giving us access to the data that will allow us to determine whether or not there are lawful ballots...[that] werent counted."

The current tally of votes puts Coleman 206 votes ahead of Franken out of about 2.5 million cast in that contest. A hand recount of the Senate race is set to begin November 19.

Elias told reporters at a Thursday press conference that the campaign has asked each county for a list of the people whose absentee ballots were rejected. Elias, along with Franken spokesman Andy Barr, could not say exactly how many counties have offered their lists and how many have not, but added that Ramsey County has not.

The campaign's hope, according to Elias, is that Ramsey County would side in their favor and set a precedent that would immediately be followed by all counties in the state.

Elias and Barr could not say what they plan do with the lists of names if were given them but added that calling each person whose absentee ballot was rejected would not be out of the picture.

"Lets see what happens and then we will see what our next steps are," Elias said.

Whether or not any of the rejected ballots might be counted or not is unclear, but Elias said he does plan on making an appeal to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's newly-formed canvassing board. A spokesman for the Secretary of State's office was not immediately available for comment.

Coleman campapign manager Cullen Sheehan fired back, calling the Franken team's efforts Thursday an attempt to "strong arm" officials into "counting invalid ballots in order to influence the outcome."

"We have grave concerns that the private information requested by the Franken campaign could lead to the harassment of Minnesota voters through visits by Franken campaign or Democratic Party operatives to their homes," said Sheehan.

Filed under: Al Franken
soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. Targar

    Keep up the fight Al

    November 13, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  2. Ryan

    I hear all this "steal the election" thing on both sides. Honestly, neither candidate garnered more than 45% of the electorate in Minnesota. That says something about both of them.

    That said, Franken's legal team speaks about following the legal process, following the letter of the law, and counting all the votes. That doesn't sound like a sore loser trying to "steal the election". Coleman's legal team talks about voter fraud. A blogger on Fox News called Coleman's 700+ vote lead a "comfortable margin". Coleman has claimed victory more than once. He is more welcoming to an ethics investigation than to a recount. I don't know what this says about him, but certainly whoever takes office should be taking in it under the condition of certainty, or at the very least by following the legal process established by the state.

    November 13, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  3. Voter

    If the Democrats had run a REAL candidate instead of a comedian this race would be over.

    November 13, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  4. David

    Unless only Franken supporters suffer strokes, there's really no way of knowing whether these absentee ballots would favor Franken or Coleman, just as there was no way of knowing whether Gore supporters or Bush supporters were more likely to cast ballots with hanging chads.

    It should be in everyone's interest to make sure we have the best voting system possible. However, it always seems to be more in the interest of the candidate who's behind than the one who's ahead.

    November 13, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  5. Cynthia - Arkansas

    Fraken is a very intelligent man. He will fight for this as far as it goes. He is doing what he believes in. Maybe some people don't know what it means to fight for a cause. You never give up!

    November 13, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  6. Former Repub Old White Female

    I am so tired of hearing about ACORN. It was a false issue. ACORN was accused of signing Mickey Mouse and names like to cote. How manny voters actually voted using the name Mickey Mouse? ACORN was wrong in what they did. However, the names ACORN used to falsify voter registrations, were NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE!!!! There are no illegal acorn VOTES, just false REGISTRATIONS. WOW, Between my former party, making up false issues, putting an airhead like Palin in the vp slot, simply because she's a woman, I am amazed why people ask me still today why I voted democrat this election. Franken, though I don't like him, has every right to use the legal process, the same way Bush did in 2000. It's not pretty, it's annoying, it's frustrating, but it's LEGAL. I hope Franken loses, but he has every right to use any and all means at his disposal to try to win. GWB did it in 2000, and he's doing it now.

    November 13, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  7. Glenn Doty, Columbia, SC

    The recount cannot "steal" the election.

    Recounts happen when the tally is close enough for the undervotes to make a difference.

    If there are only ~1% of the votes that are accidental undervotes, and a candidate wins by more than 0.5%, it is a statistical certainty that going through all the bother of looking carefully at each undervote to determine the will of the voters is not neccessary.

    If the two candidates are only 206 votes apart, and there are ~35,000 undervotes... It is quite easy to imagine the undervotes having an effect on the winner. That's just math.

    The point of the hand recount is to determine who won the actual vote. The intent of the voter who screwed up is supposed to count just as much as the intent of the voter who didn't.

    If you don't like that law, change it... But change it when an election result DOES NOT hang in the ballot.

    BTW, with optical scanning machines, ~5% of the undervotes are actually filled out correctly and simply not read.

    November 13, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  8. Independent but Leaning

    The Jim Jones article on the front page of makes me wonder if there will be a similar reflective article about Obama and the election of 2008 on the front page of a news website in 30 years…

    Lap up that kool-aid folks. Lap it up.

    November 13, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  9. Tatersalad

    As long as the votes aren't from names like Jimmie John's or Mr. Coffee don't count

    November 13, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  10. Daniel in A2

    Franken is trying to make sure everybody that voted for him has their ballot counted for him. He certainly has the right to contact the absentee voters and ask them if they supported him and try to determine if their vote counted. The voter has no obligation, under the law, to tell Franken whether or not they voted for him. Republican efforts at suppressing the vote is extreme and having valid absentee ballots rejected because the person voted for Franken is NOT a valid reason to reject a ballot.

    November 13, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  11. Former Repub Old White Female

    p.s. To Joe Green,
    Franken is not trying to see who the people vited for. he is only trying to see why their ballots were rejected. These votes were never tallied or counted. Noone knows who they voted for, because the ballots were declared invalid, and set aside without being counted. Franken is simply trying to see why they were declared invalid. This is not rocket science people!!!

    p.s. I hope franken loses, and I think he will, but he has legal rights to pursue this issue.

    November 13, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  12. DB25

    Coleman is afraid that Franken is going to win because most of the undervotes are in democratic counties, which is entirely possible.....

    November 13, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  13. Robin, Dallas, TX

    Not all Texans dislike Al. I like him and I think he is standing up to make sure all legal votes are counted. How does Norm know the rejected ballots were not cast for him? BTW, Acorn only fills out voter registrations. Someone still has to show up with a legal ID and vote.

    November 13, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  14. Vet in Texas

    Everything in Texas is bigger and better. Texas' economy is good and everything about Texas is good. We do not seem to have the problems the rest of the country suffers. I guess us idiot's must be doing something right.
    I guess you said that in support of Al Franken. Hmmm who is the idiot?

    November 13, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  15. Barbara in NC

    Hang in there AL – the republicans have been stealing elections for 8 years. Let's put an end to it this year.

    November 13, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  16. Larry Schlueter

    When if ever will we see some truthfulness from the people that write on these blogs??????

    November 13, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  17. thomas

    This is why Georgia has a runoff election when one candidate receives
    less than 50 percent of the vote. Why can't we get more uniformity in the way elections are run?

    November 13, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  18. SG

    'Joe Green' you, like most of the idiot republican's that post here, talk a lot but know nothing.

    1) The signature on an Absentee Ballot is cross checked

    2) The right to vote is a 'long honored tradition' but, seeing as you are stupid, you fail to realise that the absentee ballots this article refers to HAVEN'T BEEN COUNTED. Ergo the people in question have had 'their right to vote' taken away. If you voted and for some reason your vote was discarded wouldn't you want to know this fact? Not to mention wanting to know WHY it wasn't counted. What your post basically says is you prefer to have an anonymous vote which is then discarded than be contacted by someone and actually have your vote count.

    3. Franken has not 'thrown a wrench in the works'. He has just asked for details of rejected absentee ballots – regardless of whether he gets the details the recount will still go ahead as planned.

    November 13, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  19. MSSt.Marie

    OK, this is ridiculous.

    ALL politicians are power hungry.

    It's a prerequisite for the job.

    And no one has won OR lost.

    That's the point.

    If absentee ballots aren't getting counted correctly, that's an issue that needs to be addressed.

    And I'm neither Democrat nor Republican, so partisanship plays no part in this at all for me.

    I think it's ridiculous that absentee ballots are only counted in a "close call."

    ALL votes should be counted; otherwise, why should any of us bother?

    November 13, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  20. Allan

    Count every vote! This is America, not some banana republic in the third world.

    November 13, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  21. Irony

    Count them all, one disenfranchised voter is too many!

    Voter caging and purging is a Republican dirty trick!

    Acting in any way to disallow a legitimate vote is unpatriotic, abhorrent, and un-american!

    True patriots would count everyones vote. If you don't want to count them all, move to a country that doesn't have elections!

    November 13, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  22. Willy Brown

    Don't let this guy and the democrats in Minnesota steal this election. Al is a freakin clown looking for a golden parachute! Minnesota we can do better than that!

    November 13, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  23. Linda Carpenter, Phoenix, Arizona

    Keep up the good fight! I know yo uwon this election and I hope you make them count every single vote!

    We need you in the Senate and it is so exciting that you will be there.

    November 13, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  24. Dave, Central Illinois

    I honestly cannot fathom what is in the minds of the people that voted for that washed-up commedian, failed talk-show host, and sore loser. What is in the air up there?

    November 13, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  25. Jack Kendall

    Joe Green
    The registered voter list, with your address and if you voted and what party you listed when you registered are all part of the public record.

    The campaigns all have this information.

    So asking for a list of the absentee ballots they rejected is not giving out any more information than who cast ballots that got rejected.

    November 13, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
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