January 3rd, 2009
12:55 PM ET
14 years ago

Tense moments as Coleman camp seeks to stop recount

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/02/art.getty.al.franken.jpg caption=" Republicans have said they will not allow Franken to be seated.."]ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - One of the last remaining steps in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race recount was temporarily halted Saturday morning when attorneys with Republican Norm Coleman's campaign attempted to stop the counting of about 950 improperly rejected absentee ballots.

Currently, Coleman trails Democrat Al Franken by about 50 votes.

The state's Supreme Court had previously ordered that rejected absentee ballots be counted if local officials and each campaign could agree that the selected ballots were rejected mistakenly.

Local officials identified 1,350 such ballots. The Franken campaign wanted to count those and leave it at that. The Coleman campaign took issue with hundreds of those and also wanted to add about 650 more. Since the Franken campaign would not agree to these ballots, the Coleman campaign sought the intervention of the state's high court. The court is currently considering their request but has not set a hearing at this point, and it is still unclear if they will.

At the start of Saturday's meeting, Coleman attorney Tony Trimble asked Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann to cease any counting today.

After about an hour recess to consult the state attorney general's office, Gelbmann returned saying the decision was to "not slow down this process today, get the counting underway."

"We are relying on the oral advice of the attorney general," he added.

Trimble wanted to respond.

"We understand the decision you've made, we–," Trimble said before sharply cut off by Gelbmann.

"Excuse me," Gelbmann said. "I think the candidates have had an opportunity to address this process."

The two men quickly became visibly agitated, with Trimble adding, "This is a public meeting, and I'm going to have my say. And I will have my say."

"Two minutes," Gelbmann said.

"It may be two and half, sir, but I wll have my way," Trimble said sharply.

Gelbmann repeated, "Two minutes."

Trimble then laid out his objection but said they would reluctantly abide by today's process.

"But we do expect that the Supreme Court does permit the review of additional envelopes," he said. "And for the record our willingness to participate in this process...maintains our objection to an inconsistency which is occurring as we speak."

The Coleman campaign has maintained there has been no uniform standard in reviewing and counting rejected absentee ballots.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had hoped that the state canvassing board would complete the counting and allocation of these votes by Tuesday at the latest so a result could be confirmed.

A result would not mean a winner, however, since Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty would also have to sign off on the election certificate.

Both campaigns have seven days after the board certifies a result to file a post-election contest. Pawlenty would likely not sign anything until all legal battles are exhausted.

The unfinished business in Minnesota will likely mean Minnesota will be without a second senator when the new session is sworn in this Tuesday. Sen. John Cornyn, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has said GOP members would filibuster any attempt by Democratic leaders to seat Franken early, even if he remains in the lead, until the certificate is signed.

Filed under: Minnesota
soundoff (233 Responses)
  1. Madeleine

    Minnesota has a good voting systm which is nationally recognized as honest and Minnesota has a good government repuration – for all of you uniformed dopes who are likening this situation to Chicago politics – IT IS NOT CORRUPT. The problem is an extremely close vote. For you other dopes who think there should be a "run off" – those only happen when there is more than two candidates and no clear winner. There were two candidates only – so no run off because there is nothing to re-run. It is literally impossible not to have a tedious and contentious battle when the candidates are 50 votes apart and re-counting is going to include a review of wrongly disqualitifed votes. Where there are human beings battling for power and the outcome is a hairs breath difference = there is no human system that can avoid this chaos.

    January 3, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  2. Wayne, Greenville, TX

    In so many ways, Norm Coleman is a loser.

    January 3, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  3. Texas Teacher

    I would not personally say that the People of Minnesota are anymore unkind than anywhere else. They do have a different way of speaking that to people from the warmer parts of the country could be misinterpreted as being clipped and callous perhaps. I think it is the cold weather actually. In the south we have the warm weather so much longer that we are out and about, around other people a lot. That seems to make us a bit more relaxed with people and at ease. Up north it is cold and people are inside and separated a lot. So when they see each it is not for long periods. It makes them a bit less trusting. I kind of know what it is from having lived up north and here in Texas. I have found that people all over the country when given time to get acquainted are all pretty nice people generally.

    Just saying... 🙂

    January 3, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. Larry

    After following this for weeks,votes seem to appear and disappear,so far it's the Democrats wanting to count "some" votes,not wanting to count others,the Republicans wanting not to count some votes,now wanting to count some other votes.This one is going to be up to the wrong people to call,they need a run off,let the voters decide.

    January 3, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  5. TooDarkMark

    It's funny to watch Republicans on here go so hung ho for Norm Coleman. He was a lifelong Democrat, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn. Who switched to Republican to run for Senate.

    The supported Reagen, but anyone else from Hollywood is horrible.

    They wanted to stop the recount in 2000, now are all about it.

    Silly Republicans, your hypocricy is amazing. Republican Vitter from LA gets caught with his name on a Mada's list and no Republican lashes an eye. Craig arrested, allowed to serve. Yet Spitzer gets caught and steps down.

    Blago gets caught but not convicted. You try to make connections to Obama and Democrats in general. Yet Stevens in Alaska gets CONVICTED and no one mentions the possible connection between Palin and Stevens. You're all hypocrites.

    January 3, 2009 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  6. Florida

    More "my way" or the highway approach from Republicans. Enough.

    January 3, 2009 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  7. Don Ascoli

    Hey, Walt. You are saying "Bush always was illegitimate and always will be". Guess what, Obama is illegitimate as he wasn't born in the US, He is of Kenyan birth! I defy any Democrat on this comment string to name the hospital that Obama was born at. Also, can you tell us what race is check marked for Obama, was it marked Black, White, Indian, or what [There was no such race as 'African' back in 1961]. Try and answer these two questions before you try and talk about a legitimate President. You guys voted for a fraud. Barack Hussein Obama wont even show the American public his birth certificate! [Don't you fools talk about his published Certificate of Live Birth, that is not a Birth Certificate]. What is Obama hiding? If you are honest Democrats, you would be asking the same question?

    January 3, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  8. Change - Yeah Left!

    Why do the Dems cry when their people are questioned, but scream foul when someone else questions a Dem who might not be a legitimate winner?

    Oh, I know...it's the liberal double-standard. Anyone who doesn't fawn over the destruction of America must be wrong.

    January 3, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
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