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. Rufus Johnson

    Let's see has any party in the past stole an election? Hmmm, thinking... thinking.

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


    Maybe because the state of Minnesota has yet to certify the results? Of course we wouldn't want the law to get in the way. Perhaps you have a good explanation for why the legally-appointed Burriss will be blocked from being seated this week by the Democrats?

    Never mind; I already know – the Dems care more about what seems FAIR than what is legal.

    January 3, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  3. Tony in Maine

    No mulligans for the Republicans.

    The person with one vote more than the other wins. Since 2000 BushCo has tried to rewrite the rules every time results weren't what it wanted. BushCo is out, it's time to return to the rule of law.

    BTW, If McConnell and his gang try a filibuster, Reed should force them to do it the old fashioned way – stand at the podium and talk ad nauseum. The American people have forgotten the way the southern senators blocked progress. Let them see it again.

    January 3, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  4. SMR

    Coleman and his Attorneys need to listen to the decision of the Attorney General and let this process continue. They sound like spoiled children if they don't get their way.

    January 3, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  5. Ron

    Blaine is absolutely right. There is no way this should be a constant problem and ALWAYS involve the courts. Rules should be in place to deal with every eventuality.

    Now, this isn't exactly a run-off situation, but if it were...an even better idea is the "instant runoff," in which people vote for their first and second choice when they first go to the polls. That way, the run-off revote isn't even necessary!

    Of course, to the issue of "what don't they fix this?" My guess is that like all things political, neither party wants there to be clear, unequivocal rules....because they can't be twisted or gamed or manipulated...and they always want that wiggle room.....

    January 3, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  6. kevin in Texas

    I am an independent voter, that tends to lean republican, but I have to say, the republicans have really done their best to take this election. Fraken is in the lead, so be it. The improperly rejected balots are mostly democrat, this will add to Franken's lead, and I'm sure the Coleman campaign will keep fighting to stop them from being counted, but quite frankly, it still doesn't change the fact that FRAKEN is in the lead. He needs to be seated and this needs to be over. If the voters are happy with Fraken, they only need to wait a few years and they can vote Coleman back in. It's simple people.

    January 3, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  7. MS Redhead

    Blaine–I totally agree with you. For heaven's sake, stop the partisan highjinks and legal maneuvering, and have a run-off race. It certainly couldn't be anymore expensive than what is going on now.

    January 3, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  8. JJ in NY

    Franken is a joke ! He would be a bigger failure as a senator than he was with Air America. What a disgrace Franken is, and if he wins by hook or crook, then Minnesota is an even bigger joke .

    January 3, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  9. Walt

    Bush always was illegitimate and always will be!!!!

    January 3, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. Travis

    "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."

    Try reading a little slower. They have enough votes for a filibuster if they so choose.

    January 3, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  11. Bill

    There are about 2,000 absentee votes to be counted, why not count them all. The Republicans want to count all of them but the Democrats only want to count 1,350 of them. The same game was played out in Florida eight years ago so the real question should be how to keep a situation like this from happening again. You can sputter, whine and cry that the Republicans stole the election, or you can say the Democrats are better than that and allow the proper votes to be counted. I hope they choose not to dwell in the past.

    January 3, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. Texas Teacher

    Neal January 3rd, 2009 1:27 pm ET

    Not to be rude, but I agree completely. Republicans are notorious for stealing elections.

    Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty will, of course, sway the election if he can any way possible. Sounds like Florida again.... Republican Gov.... Republican Supreme Court?

    Oh, come now, I mean seriously... does NO ONE besides me and Neal smell the stink of the past? I am nauseous from this Republican type tactics.... excuse while I barf... .not just spit up in my mouth!

    Right now.... everyone who has not so far should bombard this Gov. with our displeasure over the way this is being handled! Minnesota, it's your state.... and you are the ones with the power. I hope you will exercise it! 🙂

    January 3, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  13. Mike in Seattle

    The Democratic Machine, ACORN and Move On.Org should just declare Franken the winner. It really doesn't matter what the vote count is or will be. The framework is in place to see that Franken wins and the people of Minnesota can suffer the results. Who ever said politics was fair or ethical?

    January 3, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  14. John in AZ

    In a Democratic tide (as 2008 was, though less so than 2006 of course), and in a state like Minnesota, I fail to see why Coleman would be so set on the idea that he DIDN'T lose...yes, the vote is close, but the most likely scenario has played itself out.

    January 3, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. mARGE

    GEE it worked so well in 2000 and got bush elected, I guess Coleman thinks he can pull a "republican count" and do the same.

    January 3, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  16. Rich

    Let me get this straight: Republicans in the Senate, led by Senator John Cornyn, have vowed to filibuster allowing to seat Al Franken as Senator from Minnesota unless the election of him is officially certified. The election can only be officially certified if the Republican Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, who hosted the Republican National Convention last summer, signs off on the result. Gov. Pawlenty could just keep stalling until Norm Coleman manages to sue his way back to being ahead in the vote count, while John Cornyn and other Republican Senators block the seating of Al Franken, who is currently ahead by about 50 votes. Does anyone remember the 2000 Presidential election? Al Gore won the popular vote, and he was on track to win in Florida too with the full statewide recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, but then George W. Bush sued Al Gore to stop the recount, the case was taken directly to the U.S. Supreme Court (which had 7 out of 9 of its members as Republican appointees, still the case today), and then the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to install George W. Bush, the loser of the popular vote, as our 43rd President, with 2 of the Republican appointees so appalled by this grave injustice that they joined the 2 Democratic appointees in opposing the ruling of the other 5 Republicans in the Supreme Court. Now it seems the Republicans are poised to replay what they did in 2000, with the help of Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, replaying the role of former Republican Governor Jeb Bush of Florida. At least we have Barack Obama as our next President! Republicans may cheat to win in Minnesota, but they will still be in the minority in the House and the Senate and lose the Presidency, which is exactly what those Bush loyalists deserve after ruining our country. I hope we Democrats can get back a majority of the Supreme Court, but that will take many years.

    January 3, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. Mike

    Franken should be seated if he is ahead just like bush. People keep thinking that it is a "fair" system. It is not. It is a "process". Just like the legal system is rarely "fair", it is "just", which is different. If people in Minn. do not like the result, next time get out more people to vote for your candidate, or spend the next 6 years changing the "process".

    January 3, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  18. STOP THE RECOUNT, ala Florida, hickory, nc

    What the heck is wrong with stopping a recount??? The 2000 presidential election, halt of the recount, and seating of a not-duly-elected POTUS set the precedent for any doubts.

    Go for it Franken!

    January 3, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. peesue

    Our first and only trip to Minnesota will certainly be our last. The people were so rude and it turned out to be a horrible trip because almost everybody we ran into were hostile, unfriendly we couldn't believe it. We were treated badly at the motel we stayed in also. So needless to say, I say the people of Minnesota deserves an idiot like Al Frankin to represent them. I'm sure he will be selected because democrats have a way of cheating when it comes to counting ballets. And to set the record straight, Bush did win fair and square in 2000. Get over it. A president is elected by electoral votes, not popular votes. So good luck you people who live in Minnesota with stupid Al Frankin to represent you. Good one. He's perfect for such a bunch of ill mannered people.

    January 3, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  20. dan devine

    With apologies to my sister in law from Mankato, first Ventura,now possiblly Al " Freakin Franken". It is an absolute "bad joke" that this puke is even close in this race. It does'nt put the good people of Minn. in avery good light. About as funny , or tasteless as the comedians jokes. Dan Devine Milw.,Wi.

    January 3, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  21. Andrew, IL

    Franken has NOT done anything to corrupt the election or ballots. He's played by the rules and got absentee ballots that were improperly rejected to now be counted. Coleman knew that he'd likely lose a recount and that's why he tried to make Franken concede before it took place. Also, Coleman challenged way more ballots because he knew they favored Franken and wanted people to presume that he was really winning since challenged ballots are subtracted from the overall total. So stop saying Franken cheated and stole the seat when he did nothing but allow more people to have their votes count. Also to Blaine, runoffs are unpredictable because there's a lot less voters turning out since people only really want to vote once every 2 years.

    January 3, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Richard Terrell January 3rd, 2009 1:25 pm ET

    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 mean, I think both sides of the isle do that, not just Democrats. Try looking at things at a different perspective, it might blow your mind, Richard.

    January 3, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  23. T. Mckinley

    Typical Republican attitude and tactics..."We don't care who actually won the election...stop the recount...WE are taking power and it's time for the democrats to step aside..."

    Anyone remember Florida 2000?

    January 3, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. Gene

    Richard, get the facts straight. The Republicans are wanting to stop the counting even though they are behind. Coleman knows he is defeated and the republicans should pack up their losses and move on to plan for the next political season. This shows how bad the party is doing at this point. They are hanging by a thread and are trying to tie a knot with the one thread. It is time for CHANGE and time for the Republicans to change their identity.

    January 3, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. Saskatchewan for Franken

    Why don't they just seat Mr. Franken on Tuesday. It is obvious he is a clear winner. The Republicans need to stop stalling. Coleman lost the battle. Also, the Republicans have no voice as Bush stole the election from Gore. Donna Brazile was the best the Democrats ever have for Campaign Manager and the Republicans stole it away. A bunch of misfits.

    January 3, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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