January 3rd, 2009
12:55 PM ET
13 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)

    See what Florida started?

    I grow weary of reading about this drama in Minnesota.

    January 3, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  2. CH in Maine

    If the court appointment of George W. Bush in 2000 has taught us anything it is that when the court stops the counting of votes there can be serious consequences. Keep fight'n Al . You are good enough you are strong enough and dogonnit more people voted for you.

    January 3, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. Who was Mike Connell?

    Colman needs oral advice?Wheres Roberto Gonzales when we need him?Didnt he fire the judges?

    January 3, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  4. A Real American

    Why is it always the republicans who have a problem with having all the votes counted?

    Because at heart they're really just anti-democratic SOBs.

    January 3, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. Let's Play Celebrity Congress!

    Let's see–Al Franken, Rolland Burris, Caroline Kennedy. Let's see what other nut we can find for the US Senate. The Senate is losing more respect by the minute.

    January 3, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  6. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Stop the recount? Why? Because he's losing?


    January 3, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. Jack in Florida

    Republicans are such sore losers......

    January 3, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  8. james in s.c.

    typical GWB and GOP game plan, look what happen in florida (2000) and ohio (2004). the rethuglicans loves to cheat and be above the law. keep counting minnesota!!! go FRANKEN!!

    January 3, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  9. purple microdot

    Too many strange laws to get something so simple completed as counting all ballots. While I hate this process, I'm grateful that this is front and center so that everyone can view how both of our national parties are solely concerned with their own agendas. The people are subordinate to the greater forces at work by both Republicans and Democrats. I don't even care who wins at this point since this whole farce resembles something from a banana republic in the 1970s.

    January 3, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  10. BB

    That's two showing up with no certification !

    January 3, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  11. lovable liberal

    How many times do Republicans have to fight vote-counting before the whole country gets the message?

    Also, I wonder how Joe Lieberman will vote on Cornyn's filibuster.

    January 3, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  12. Mike

    With the money that will get tied up in court over the disputed outcome, wouldn't it be wiser for the State of Minnesota to hold a special runoff election between these two candidates to affirm the electorates desire? That decision should be within the power of the State legislature.

    January 3, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  13. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    MN now looks like FL with snow. Remember FL in 2000 with the chads??? Here we go again!!!

    January 3, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  14. Rex

    Does it really matter? Chambliss won GA, so no filibuster-proof majority for the Dems regardless of the MN race.

    January 3, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |

    There will be no victors and vanquished if Coleman insists on conceding after all votes are counted. I trust that the MN supreme court will do the right thing and uphold the results of the elections. Coleman can muster a challenge to Franken in 6 years. But with the problems he has with ethics and investigations, I'm not sure if Coleman will survive the next 6 years in the senate even if he is declared the winner, which is highly doubtful.

    January 3, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Ron

    It was a travesty when this happened in Florida in 2000; its a travesty now. This is not rocket science, but like anything, when you get lawyers involved its golden in billable hours and P.R.

    January 3, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  17. Bill Denton, TX

    Where are all the Democrats who screamed about Bush 'stealing' the election now?

    January 3, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  18. Blaine

    I fail to understand why more states don't have mechanisms for run-offs when the vote is this close. Run-offs allow for legitimate 3rd party bids by taking away the "necessity" to vote for one of the primary parties and yet narrows the field down to two when no clear winner exists. As it stands no matter who wins the other side will claim the result was illegitimate. Just look at how, eight years since the 2000 election, people still claim Bush was illegitimate. Let the two have a run-off for goodness sake and let someone win fair and square.

    January 3, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. WIlly Brown

    Screw it! Have another vote in 60 days. Ballot has 2 names and the candidate picture beside their name, Franken & Coleman. You will select one only. Any stray marks that ballot automatically gets trashed period end of story. Last you will have a pictured I.D. to show proof of who you are. Overseas Minnesota residents can be sent an absentee ballot and send back picture proof of that voter over seas ballot will be counted first then the rest by hand. Until then Minnesota will appoint a temporary senator from an impendent party.

    January 3, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  20. Richard Terrell

    Frankin want's to do exactly what was done in the gubernatorial race in Washington state. Keep counting votes until the Democrat is in the lead and then stop counting. The typical Democrat mantra is count all the votes. What they really mean is count all the Democrat votes, at least once, maybe twice. Franken is a disgrace and a failure at everything he has done, yet he now wants Minnesota to award him the senate seat on a thrice counted vote. I say you fight this kind of chicanery with an honest recount of ALL the votes. I have seen some Coleman votes that were rejected. They had blackened the empty dot then crossed through it. The exact same thing done for Franken votes were counted. This is disgraceful. Coleman has a valid point. Where is the uniform clarity on the vote tally?

    January 3, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. Janey

    How can the people of Minnesota accept this travesty of corrupted ballots? A new election seems to be the only fair way to proceed–with voting police everywhere from both parties and hand written ballots. Otherwise it will be forever tainted no matter who wins. Sounds like Minnesota would rather have the drama than a real vote.

    January 3, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  22. Neal

    Not to be rude, but how in the heck do republicans think that they will be able to block Franken from being seated? The minority does not have the votes.
    Besides, after 2000 in which Bush won the presidency due to a questionable re-count that occurred in the state in which his BROTHER was the governor, the republicans have no room to talk or complain.
    The END.

    January 3, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. steve

    Stop the counting of the votes shouts republican attorneys. Sounds to me like 2000 all over again.

    Why can't the votes be counted, all the votes. Whoever has the most votes wins. I think the answer is Coleman would lose the election and vote count prevention has somehow managed to become mainstream tactics for one party....

    January 3, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. Fenarkleman

    Go Al Franken! Go Pete Tagliani!

    January 3, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  25. Juan Grain

    Go Franken!!!

    January 3, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
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