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)
  1. Sherrol in Canada


    Couldn't help yelling, this stuff is driving me crazy. Who's paying for all this anyway?

    January 3, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  2. Hirotomi Takemitsu

    It's obvious that the Coleman camp is trying to cheat, and has been from the beginning when things got close.
    Same tactics "W" pulled in 2000.

    I hope Coleman looses in the end. Good riddance.

    January 3, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Larry

    It appears the Republicans already know the outcome of this race

    More dirty tricks as is so common with the Republican party

    They have an old saying amongst themselves ...

    " Can't Beat Um ... CHEAT ... "

    Can't wait till January 20

    January 3, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. Joe in MN

    Congrats MN, we are the new Florida.

    January 3, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. Pam

    Freak show!!!!!

    January 3, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  6. Frank Devenough

    The corrupt democrats in MN will undoubtedly take the election from Coleman and hand to the comedian Franken. MN is behaving just like IL now.

    January 3, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. SMK

    It's amazing how bad Minnesota politics are. They are almost as corrupt as Chicago politics. Coleman WON the Senate Seat on Election night, but lost because he didn't hit that magic number. He had more votes then Franken that night. Then all because of the 3rd party candidate which no one talks about, whoever he/she was, I don't know, they had to do a recount. So they start the recount and ballots just happen to appear out of no where for Franken. Claiming they were left in some car trunk that a person forgot about for days. (Cough...liars...cough) No one in their right mind would believe that, well, except Democrats who want Franken to win anyway. So now Franken is in the lead by 50 votes? Where did all these extra votes come from to have him leading when he LOST on election night? Absentee ballots would be about 50% for both candidates, since the election was "close". Who are these people in Minnesota that voted for the not so funny comedian Franken? I guess these are the same people who voted for Obama because he claimed to be the agent of change. Oh how the idiots were duped.

    Minnesota should have just held another election without the 3rd party candidate... or easier still. Split the votes 50/50 that went to the third party candidate.

    Lie, cheat, steal. It's the only way to win an election. Or you could just buy it with enough money too.

    January 3, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. Godluvr

    Can anyone please stop the political sci-fi in Coleman's camp?

    January 3, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. chris

    We can thank Al Gore for this. He set the precedent for contesting elections. I harken back to the 1960 Presidential Election. In spite of clear voter fraud that favored Kennedy in Chicago, Richard Nixon, citing the concern of the harm contesting the election would do to the country, refused to contest the election results and Kennedy won.

    Here, Coleman was in the lead after the initial vote tally. There was no reports of fraud. But, Franken and the dems contested the election and ordered a recount-throwing up every legal challenge possible. As soon as Franken got the slightest lead in recounts, he demanded the vote be certified.

    This is change? This is the party that will lead our nation? "Recount until I win," is the real message of Franken. He is a joke.

    Question-when Reagan ran and won the California Govenorship and the Presidency, he was ridiculed as a B list actor, an intellecutal lightweight. And Franken is.....????????????

    January 3, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. Matt

    As Republicans said after the Supreme Court appointed George Bush president in 2000: Get Over It. Seat Franken.

    January 3, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  11. Leigh

    So what's the story here? The Republicans don't want everyone's votes counted.
    It's not legitimate unless they win? Republicans are bad for this country and its voting process.

    January 3, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. S Callahan

    Because there is such a lack of trust in the current political process, I agree with the above (or is it below) posts that there should be a runoff, highly monitored and quickly done.

    January 3, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. JoetheMinnesotan

    It was a free and fair election and a careful and transparent recount is proceeding. All of the states could benefit from using Minnesota as a model for future elections. The only people disputing this are partisan.

    January 3, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. MikeH

    Why does a lawyer try to stop a state ballot re-count ordered by the state Supreme Court?

    Sounds to me like an attempt to stop due process because the expected outcome of the recount will not go in favor of the lawyers client, Supreme Court order be d****d

    The Republicans think they are above the law, a legacy of the Bush presidency.

    We are getting rid of these facists in the nick of time, I hope.

    January 3, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. phil

    can you say filibuster?

    January 3, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  16. H




    January 3, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  17. Who was Mike Connell?

    I bet Mr. Colman wishs Mike Connell was still alive.

    January 3, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  18. molly cruz

    Go Al!

    January 3, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. AndyB

    Never mind what the people want this is all about that well paying job (150k to 200k) with outrageous vacation time.

    January 3, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  20. Melissa in Minnesota

    If there was a runoff or a new election of any kind, Franken would win hands down. Many of us voted for a third party candidate and since it is clear he cannot win, our votes would overwhelmingly go to Franken. Norm is a sneaky weasel who has put him own ambition ahead of the needs of Minnesotans at every turn.

    January 3, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. John Pileggi

    The Republicans CAN block the seating without a majority because it takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster and the Democrats are short of that level. One of the reasons this election has such importance is its potential to put the Democrats within a vote or two (of moderate Republican senators) of being able to stop Republican attempts to filibuster legislation which might other wise get a House majority and the President's signature. Regardless of one's views of the tactics on either side, there are very high stakes and each side will exhaust all means of halting a loss.

    January 3, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. Doug

    There's no provision in MN law for a new election....muddy as it seems, the lawful process is being followed. As a Minnesotan, I'm confident the process will be followed and all things are legit. Thankfully for whoever wins, Americans tend to have a short memory. Look at the bigger picture–we've got a few bigger problems to deal with. Let's get to work!

    January 3, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |





    January 3, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  24. Maggie from Virginia

    This is another tool to take our attention away from what's really happening in the world. Evil is stirring, and it has three letters – GOP.

    January 3, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  25. Conservative Democrat in Miami

    I am so ready for this race to be over.If al win he better tone it down with all that funny comedian stuff.

    January 3, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
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