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. Barbara Campbell

    You can always tell the neocons on these blogs – rude, uninformed, hostile, divisive, with no substance in their comments.

    January 3, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Republican just can't get the point. They are losers in 2008. The vast majority of this country's voters rejected their policies and their approach to solving this nation's problems...many of which they have created during the past eight years when they effectively controlled legislative processes.

    January 3, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. Peggy

    FYI, Al Franken graduated from Harvard. He is an intelligent, astute politician with – yes – a great sense of humor (which is sadly lacking in Washington these days). He wants to win in a fair recount and wants all votes to be counted. Coleman wants to win any way he can. Franken would by far be the best Senator for Minnesota!!

    January 3, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. Ken

    @dan devine and peesue: Actually Al Frankin is quite intelligent, he just doesn't blindly follow your neo-tard politics, like the Bush brown-noser Coleman. And he has taken the likes of your hero Limbaugh to task, much to the chagrin of those of you that find it so satisfying to worship such smelly sacks of rightwing excrement. That's why you don't like him. So you'll excuse me if I place you two in a cheap plastic bag with the other delusional Bush true-believers, add a few heavy rocks, tie it off, and toss it into the lake.

    Good luck MN, please try to pull yourselves completely out of Dumbf-fistan.

    January 3, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. Jim

    As in Florida in 2000, Democrats are stealing an election; surprise, surprise. In Florida truth and justice prevailed; We can only hope the same happens in Minnesota, and that DFL cronies don't "find" more Franken ballots in the back room somewhere.

    January 3, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    peesue: "Democrats have a way of cheating when it comes to counting ballots???" Hahahahahaha! You have GOT to be kidding. Everyone knows the GOP invented election theft and would prefer a "government of the few, the very few." Wake up please. You'll be just in time to see the Dems save our country from the COMPLETE multi level mess the corrupt pigs YOU vote for have made. say hello to Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham, Kathleen Harris, Jack Abramoff, Scooter Libby, Ken Lay (RIP), Ted Stevens, Tom DeLay and all the other former politicians/future felons for me. 😛

    January 3, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  7. Chad Whitaker

    For anyone who believes that an adult comedian that ran a great campaign on issues won't be an idea senator, I ask that you look at your own senator. Is your senator one who sat in a bathroom stall tapping his foot? Or have they recently been charged with some corruption scandal? Or has your governor recently been in the news for trying to sell a senate seat? You have no idea how Mr. Franken will lead his state, so before you attack him at least let him have a chance to screw up like the rest of our politicians.

    January 3, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  8. Peggy

    FYI, Al Franken graduated from Harvard. He is smart and – yes – very funny. He will make a great Senator from Minnesota.

    January 3, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  9. creighton

    Coleman is under investigation and has hired a high priced attorney to defend him againist corruption charges. Franken is in the lead an will likely increase his lead. Minnesota has a pretty good system for vote counting and neither side has an inside advantage.
    We should all know the end of this by the end of next week. Seat Franken and let the lawsuits begin. Hopefully Coleman will be indicted on corruption charges, convicted and end this whole ordeal.

    January 3, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  10. Vinnie

    What's good enough for Gore is good enough for Coleman. Talk about a double standard.

    The Republicans just keep digging a hole to their own detriment.

    January 3, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  11. Realitycheck

    Sure, its the Republicans who steal elections. After all Tammany Hall, The Daily machine, Pendergast were all Republicans, right?

    January 3, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. Scott

    After reading over the first dozen comments, it's interesting to note the intelligence of Rich's commentary, versus the shallow, misguided talking points of the Republican diehards, such as "dan devine" and "peesue." I doubt either of those two have ever read a word of Franken's books, which deftly expose the dishonesty of most of the Republican talking points spewed by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter. I'll take education, tolerance, competency, and intelligence (a la Al Franken and Rich) over bigotry, misinformation, blind loyalty, and bullying (a la "dan devine," "peesue," and the entire Bush administration) any day of the week.

    January 3, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. Kyle Indianapolis, Indiana

    Coleman needs to give it up.

    January 3, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Richard Larson

    Republican sour grapes and tantrums aside, Frankin is eventually going to win this seat. Coleman's representatives know this and they are doing everything they can to dis-allow votes they know belong to Frankin which will put Coleman even further behind.

    As to the republicans in the senate, they are just sore losers who are acting like thirteen year olds who have been told they aren't allowed to do something their friends are doing. My guess is that the republican party, if it doesn't immediately begin to act responsibly and begin to contribute to the governance of this country, will quickly become a regional party and marginalized. Acting like bratty, snot-nosed kids isn't going to do it for them.

    January 3, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Perusing-Through


    If the people of Minnesota selects Al Franken, than the Republican Senators need to accept it and move on. Already GOP Senators are concocting methods for blocking Al Franken from taking his Senate seat.

    January 3, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. SG

    What's really sad is we can build a space station but we still can't seem to run elections without this kind of nonsense. Whether Franken wins or Coleman wins, this says a lot about our country and political system.

    January 3, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  17. Robert

    I fail to see how people can look at this situation and say it's exactly what happened in Florida in 2000. People are just screaming, "Republicans don't want to count everyone's votes! They're stealing the election!" In fact, the Republicans are protesting the recount because they feel that not everyone's votes are being counted. Read: "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." It's the Franken campaign that doesn't want to add the 650 votes – if anyone doesn't want to count everyone's votes, it's the Franken campaign. Get the facts straight. A vast majority of comments here are partisan name-calling, with only few intelligent, objective, and informed comments in between. FTR, I think the easiest solution is a simple run-off, like Blaine suggested.

    January 3, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  18. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    Already the Obstructionist Republicans are at it.

    The dark-suits have no intention to join with the rest of Congress and the country to save America.

    If we can't pull it together, we will become a weak world power behind China, India, Russia....

    In fact, I think we are.....we need to bring home our jobs from foreign countries and for those companies who refuse,


    January 3, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  19. Rick Sutter

    If Minnesotans voted for this failed "comedian" in such large numbers, they deserve whatever they get. What a joke.

    January 3, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  20. Texas Teacher

    Oh, come on.... *LOL* PEESUE must be one of the commentators!

    Peesue... Minnesota would be blessed to have Al Franken as their Senator.... have you not read even ONE of his books.... he has said with humor what few could say of the Republican style of Politics.

    This is a man well educated and fully qualified to be a senator from any state in the Union! You would be smart to do some research before speaking as an ill informed person.

    January 3, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  21. Erin

    What many on this site don't seem to realize is that the ballots in question, those that were rejected, were rejected with good reason. As a volunteer in the polling centers and as a political interest writer, I have watched this election carefully. As a resident of MN, I am highly concerned!
    I saw rejected ballots firsthand that Franken is trying to count (and has succeeded in counting thus far) that are clearly NOT legitimate votes. A "rejected vote" doesn't mean that someone just decided arbitrarily that the vote shouldn't count; it means that the ballot was not legally allowed to be counted. In some cases it is because it was an absentee ballot that was counted and then the individual showed up to vote again, thus the rejection was eliminating a double vote. In other cases it is because a write-in vote, bubble circle or other markings were illegible and could not be definitively counted. There are very specific laws and rules for voting that must be adhered to in order to conduct a valid election. Unfortunately, there are some in our society that simply cannot follow the rules. Al Franken, in my opinion, is one of them.

    January 3, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  22. Jae

    For all of you know it alls who don't live in MN, who are saying we deserve Al Franken, go away while the grown ups do their thing. It's not a matter of Franken being what we deserve, it's a matter of we don't deserve a slimeball like Coleman. Every since he slithered into Wellstone's seat, he's had a target on his back. He is EXTREMELY disliked by a large portion of voters. We don't care much for his extreme right politics, nor his habit of pretending to be what's he not when there's a change in the political wind. So, again: sit down. Shut up.

    January 3, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. 7pesos

    republicans can't see that americans don't trust them anymore.

    war, hate, christian creeps, bush and the evangelicals.

    that's those republcans for you, folks!

    January 3, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  24. wanbligi

    Minnesota has a fair election process and I commend them for that. I remember not too long ago in Florida, how that Presidential race recount was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court and I don't think Minnesota wants that. Let the Minnesota recount process continue and it will work out.

    Take care.

    January 3, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. Minnesota native

    Well, peesue, as a Minnesota native it's hard for me to reconcile what I know to be true with your statements. I know that, almost without exception, Minnesota natives will bend over backwards to help out when needed. And having lived a few different places and being fairly well traveled, I haven't found more helpful types anywhere. In fact, I'm guessing from the spiteful, childish tone of your letter, you probably brought out the worst in people-in which case, we're probably all better off that you're not returning.

    P.S. I never was a fan of Al Franken–I thought there were plenty more well-qualified Democrats that should have been selected. The race would never have been this close had the Dems run a less controversial candidate.

    January 3, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
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