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. Steve

    Why do close elections dissolve into lawless anarchy with whoever is able to shout the loudest in the meetings getting their way?

    Counting votes isn't rocket science. People have been counting votes for more than 2000 years. If we had a rule of law, there would be no need for controversy or complications.

    January 3, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. ralph tyler

    Allowing senators one 6 or 8 year consecutive term would ameliorate this problem.

    Actually, this would solve a lot of problems: about 100 of them.

    January 3, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  3. dibick99

    better franken than coleman. coleman's been a comedian in the senate for a long time. so franken should be a welcome change. at least he's a professional comedian.

    January 3, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. Proud American

    Republicans are notorious for stealing elections. This is 2000 all over again this election is over and Franken is the winner. I can't be that Republicans want the Republican Gov. to call this election. Republicans think the rest of the country are as stupid as they are. Republicans you lost!!!!

    January 3, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. Adelita

    To Peesue:

    From the tone of your comment I'd say the Minnesotans you encountered were treating you as you treated them – you have heard of the Golden Rule, right?

    January 3, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. alvino

    If you count all the ballots from election day, Franken wins, the Senate will seat him.

    Those of you who think Norm should have a do-over because he lost, have forgotten that in the real America, the person with the most votes wins.

    January 3, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Rorschach

    Hey, Republicans -

    Grow up.

    January 3, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  8. nancy

    Unlike many people making comments, I live in Minnesota. I believe every legitimate vote should be counted regardless of whether the candidate I wanted wins or not. The law allows for a recount in a close race. I would be suspect of the motives of anyone who would object, or stand in the way, of the voter's rights to have their vote counted. I had supported Coleman until his reaction to the recount. I now cannot in good conscience support a politician who would resort to such extreme tactics to try to capture an election he may not have rightfully won. I say, count the ballots! I am willing to live with the candidate elected by the majority because I am an American as well as a Minnesotan.

    January 3, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  9. California Gold

    Make no mistake: this process is not speedy. It's laborious and methodical. The final result will leave some satisfied, some angry and some happy.

    Peesue you should register your displeasure with the entire State of Minnesota with their state department of tourism and chamber of commerce instead of claiming every inhabitant is ill mannered and unfriendly. You base your critique of millions of people and a legal process on one visit and the motel where you stayed. You don't get out much do you.

    January 3, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  10. Proud American

    peesue = Your a idiot and people in Minnesota were rude to you because they realized after you said hello how stupid you were. The good people of Minnesota saw you just as another Republican Idiot with 1/2 a brain walking into their state and trying to steal the election that you lost. I've just been informed you are banned from the state. Idiot

    January 3, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. Chuck from MN

    First of all, let me apologize on behalf of the Minnesotans who ARE nice, and not rude, for the treatment received by the person who was treated badly in the state. Not everyone is like that here. But you know what they say about "one bad apple".

    As for Franken (Not FRANKIN, please, GET IT RIGHT), a guy who jokes about rape is not, in my opinion, worthy of a Senate seat.

    This is much too remeniscent of the Rolvaag-Andersen contest of '62. For those of you not in the know, that was a Governor's race. The recount lasted until February, when Anderson finally decided that for the Good of the State, he would concede. Who actually won? I don't believe that was ever officially determined!

    It's astounding: even with computers they can't keep errors from occuring. Let's make it simple: If Any ballot doesn't match what it is supposed to look like (IE, "x" in the box rather than a filled circle) it should NOT be counted. Simple, straight forward. And if it has two people marked for one office, either the people should get a new ballot (As required by law) or it should not be counted. Again, very simple.

    Of course, we COULD always require a straight party vote.

    January 3, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  12. BH

    How many times is the Franken campaign going to "discover" ballots and then insist they be counted? This is starting to sound an awful lot like the lengths Daley went through to make sure Kennedy won Chicago in 1960.

    January 3, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. WJC in MN

    Bill – There are not 2000 absentee ballots to be counted, and Coleman certainky did not want all of them to be counted. He did his level best to count only those favorable to him. There are legitimate reasons not to count some (4 reasons according to the Secretary of State's office). The ones that are not legal should not be counted; the ones that are should be. That has always been the opinion of the Franken campaign.

    Al will be a great Senator once this recound is finally finished.

    January 3, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  14. Darren

    Okay. #1 they are trying to count ALL VALID VOTES. The dems are not doing anything wrong. The only reason that shifty skank Coleman was even elected is because Paul Wellstone died right before the election. Coleman is a nasty vile human being and if history serves us right............... REPUBLICANS steal elections.

    January 3, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  15. jumbo

    just re vote like Georgia did ,,,,, ,, this is the only fair way

    January 3, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. Steve - Denver

    @peesue Really? I am a staunch independent and love politics for the simple fact of people like you who are so blindly devoted to one side or the other. Don't get me wrong, both sides have people like this.

    Democrats steal elections, but Bush won fair and square in 2000?

    Florida 2000 had plenty of issues that could be argued like those today in MN, our politics works in a way today that anytime there is a close election both sides are going to sue and argue until a decision is reached rather than simply just counting all the votes.

    Wouldn't it be easier to simply count ALL votes and any "disputed" votes as to intent simply need to follow a written policy agreed to by both sides before the re-count starts?

    If there is an X over a vote it doesn't count kind of thing?

    In any case I enjoy the zealots on both sides – you make politics interesting while you damage our country. Congratulations!!

    January 3, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  17. T. Mckinley


    NO, Bush did NOT win the 2000 election fair and square. GW's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, and GW's good friend, Florida Secretary of State Kathrine Harris used their influence to stop the recount in Florida so GW would end up as the so-called "winner."

    It seems that the Republicans are at it again.....

    January 3, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  18. Diana

    Boy is everything the democtats do crooked .....I can't say I blame the republicans one bit....seems like the whole election was crooked how can you count votes that don't belong...where the hell are they coming from

    January 3, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  19. tom

    cant wait until we toss that evil crook coleman out of office and take back this stae from the nazi republican party. go franken go, dont let evil stop you we must all fight on in teh name of god and stop teh nazi republican party.

    January 3, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  20. Eric C

    After all the criminal ACORN activities, which have clearly shown that their efforts are to illegally register liberal voters (fradulently, fictitiously, or otherwise), gee, I can't understand why the Republicans might suspect foul play? As for being qualified: why does it matter? Obama – no resume. Caroline Kennedy – no resume. Burriss – defeated 5 times for public office. Ted Kennedy – integrity drowned at Chappaquiddick with Mary Jo Kopechne. Clinton's – responsible for how many deaths, improprieties, and pardons during their administration? C'mon you rabble-rousers – let Frankin in!!! After all, he's a perfect fit...sort of like the "hand in the glove"...and maybe just like OJ, he'll get away with murder. Which, now that I think about it, may be why the dopey folks in Minnesota chose to vote for him in the first place...

    January 3, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  21. Steve-O

    Lets look at the way things have played out so far. Election night, Coleman a sizable lead, but close enough for a recount. Thne we have mysterious ballots appearing from under desks, storage losets and numbers of ballots NOT matching those that voted. Now we have FRANKEN saying every vote should count, but NOT the ones he does not think will be for him. Can we see a pattern? It's a Hollywood script that will never be concluded unless Franken gets the nod.

    January 3, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  22. Oh Yea!!

    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 balletsOur first and only trip to Minnesota will certainly be our last 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**CUZ YOU STINK!!! *** Excuse me it was the REPUBS That Cheated***** Remember Florida!!!!

    January 3, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  23. Thomas





    Yes, Hollywood hasbeens have been proven illequiped to lead the people's vision – And I refer to the Republican icon – Ronald Reagan. I believe Frankin is more a New York comedian/politcal commentator and not a Hollywood actor.

    January 3, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  24. Josh

    Why is it always the GOP that wants votes to NOT be counted? I'm an independent and have voted Republican more than 50% of the time, but I'm wondering if I will ever want to again.

    January 3, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  25. Proud American

    After last November election when America told Republicans they were all Idiot and we were sick of them it hurt they feeling. Fact Republicans have nothing to lose because they have lost everything already (Never had common sense or respect). Republicans are going to put their foot in the isle on any and everything they can to stop this nation from progressing and moving forward out of the mess THEY created. Republicans lost this election and now their trying to steal it. Federal prisons are full of these Idiots.

    January 3, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
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