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. Dawn

    It's going to be a long cold winter in Minnesota...

    Well the day in a life of Politics!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Have a great New Years!!!!!!!!!!

    January 3, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. John from Woodbury

    It's funny, the day after the election was over Norm was a few hunderd ahead. He said that Franken should concede and that if it was the other way around that he would concede to Franken. Well, what happened Norm? Franken has been ahead for weeks now. What is going on here is nothing compared to the travesty of Florida. Every indication is that this recount has been fair yet because it is appearing more and more that Coleman is losing, the grumbling and threats are coming from the Repubs. I have not heard the Senate Dems threatening not to seat Coleman but of course the Repubs are threatening a filibuster if Franken is declared the winner. Well, this is the same party responsible for over 4000 dead Americans fighting in Iraq over a war based upon lies. So, what's new repubs?

    January 3, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  3. Los

    After the 2000 election, Democrats had no choice but to shut up and accept the final ruling, no matter how strongly they disagreed with it.

    Will Republicans do the same? I doubt it.

    January 3, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. JT from Missouri

    I think that whoever wins needs to accept defeat and get behind the winner to help him, and the winner needs to do all in his power to help the state that he is in. This case it is Minnesota. People need to get over this no good partisan attitude, and get over there sweet selves. This kind of behavior is the reason why this country is in the shape it is in now. When Obama said "This is not the red states of America or the blue states of America. This is the United States of America. We need to take that into perspective. If we do that then we can start to see some progress being made in our country, and maybe we can find common ground with other countries. For example, Israel and Hammas. How can we help them find common ground if we cannot find common ground with ourselves as Americans. Divided we fall, United we Stand. God bless America.

    January 3, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  5. Carole

    Deja Vu of 2000...when Al Gore was getting ahead in votes the Republicans stop those votes from getting counted.

    The Republican way of winning elections.....cheat, cheat, cheat.

    January 3, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. Laslo Moonfellow

    Political divisions serve as a system of control. Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. They are two sides of the same coin. No matter who is in office, they will pander to their constituents and work to line their own coffers. People need to wake up to the truth of what has become a corrupt system that cares very little for the people. The real travesty is the pervasive ignorance of the people who continue to buy into this Machiavellian “process”. Wake up America!

    January 3, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. GuyInVA

    First of all, I thought all improperly rejected ballots had to be agreed upon by both campaigns before they are counted. So, if the Coleman campaign disagrees with some, why is a lawsuit necessary? They shouldn't be counted. The same goes for the 650 Franken doesn't want counted. I bet those won't be counted and no lawsuit will be needed. Secondly, the amazing thing to me about this election (and something no one is reporting) is how Coleman lost over 500 votes before the recount even started. He had a lead in excess of 700 votes after the election (or non-election), but when the recount started it was 206 or so. Equally incredible is the Franken campaign' prediction of a 50 – 70 vote victory in the recount. Amazingly accurate, wouldn't you say? Remember, it was Joseph Stalin who told the world that who casts the votes is irrelevant, it's who counts the votes that matters.

    January 3, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  8. Rick

    As a resident of Minnesota who didn't vote for Coleman or Franken (I voted Libertarian) it is my desire to see this process carried out fully, including the legal challenges. I don't want any allegations of wrongdoing or unfairness to cloud the next six years.

    If it takes months to complete the process then so be it. I would rather be underrepresented for a month or two than to have a question regarding the legitimacy of our senator linger in the minds of the voters for six years.

    January 3, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  9. andrew

    why are the republicans always scared of counting all the votes. if we would of counted all te votes in fla in 2000 we would not be in amess today

    January 3, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  10. atheoha

    I think the term Minnesota Nice refutes the two previous comments. Thank You and have a nice day.

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

    coleman and franken should make a joint statement that they will only accept to serve if senator designate BURRIS OF ILLINOIS is seated by harry REID who shamelessly called illinois governor to campaign against REP. jackson. democrats are you any better than republicans. you all stink..

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

    Just like the Republicans to bring the business of the people to a grinding halt because they aren't getting their way.

    They did it constantly under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, most famously during the Terri Shivo case, and now with out economy melting down, the world falling apart, the Middle East blowing up, the GOP is going to hijack Congress because they don't like the results of a legitimate recount?

    One that was mandated by Minnesota state laws, one that both sides agreed to the specifics, and now the Republicans are throwing a tantrum because they didn't win?

    No wonder the GOP is falling apart. I see more grown up behavior from my 6 year old.

    January 3, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  13. Tom

    I don't understand why morons from other parts of the country are all of a sudden doing ad hominem attacks on people who live in Minnesota because there is a messy recount that the two candidates are both willing to sue each other over? Your politicians are no better than ours. Rick Santorum, Jesse Helms, Eliot Spitzer, Larry Craig, Rod Blago, Ted Stevens, Tom DeLay and a professional body builder becoming governor by competing against porn stars and midgets all come to mind. I think you people should consider us victims of a BS process and the two-party system and step down off your geographic soap box.

    January 3, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. Debra Goodman

    While I would like to see Franken in the Senate, this whole recount thing has become positively ludicrous. I may not have liked the final result of the Georgia run-off, but at least it was settled quickly and efficiently, as this race would be if they implemented a run-off system as well. Yet another example of our ridiculous political system when it goes on a state-by-state basis.

    January 3, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  15. Ryan

    You republicans are such hypocrites. You and Coleman didn't even want a recount to begin with even though it was ALLOWED by law. Now that Coleman is behind, all of a sudden you want an entire recount. What a surprise! Maybe if you just wanted to count all the votes from the beginning as should be the case, you wouldn't be in this position. And to all you Franken haters. He went to Harvard just like Bush. I doubt he could be any worse!

    January 3, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  16. Greg

    Now let me get this straight - Coleman tried to stop the recount. He fails at that tactic, the entire process takes place with extraordinary transparency (see TheUptake.org) - in front of God and everyone - and ends up 49 votes behind. Coleman tries to halt the counting of absentee ballots. He gets at least part of his way with the Minnesota Supreme Court, where there is a decision that ***both camps*** have to agree to those which are counted. He begins by trying to put the kabosh on ***all of them***, then opts to ***cherry-pick*** them, and then agrees to 650 of them. The process begins again, and now - with total transparency on TheUptake.org - Coleman cries foul.

    Say what you will, right-wingers - the deck has not been stacked. It has been turned over where ***everyone*** can see the cards being played, and you STILL cry foul! And you with the ad hominem attacks against future-Senator Franken should go back into the hole from which you crawled and whine in peace. Cretins...

    January 3, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  17. Rob

    I can't believe the heart of Republican Democracy (that would be the United States) can't figure out how to have a clear election with clear results. Period, Full-stop. Clear election results that are not in dispute and that don't drag on for weeks.

    For one, seperate the local and national elections. But TWO ballots you say horrified?!? Ok then. Stick to one ballot with 50 names on it, and make it confusing and disorganized to boot. It's been mismanaged before. So why not keep doing the same thing?

    Just figure it out, for once. PLEASE!!!!!

    Election Monitors must never be allowed to be members of political parties. This seems to be the root of the problem. I was a Returning Officer of an election at a Canadian University for student council. Small potatoes I know....but we used our national election rules, and it was professional, swift, and any discrepancies were quickly dealt with. Boxes were recounted, and a winner was selected in about 4 hours.

    "Sure", said the fox, "I'll make sure everything goes smoothly". That seems to be the US method of determining elections results.

    After the debacle of the hanging chads and the US Supreme Court awarding the Presidency to President Bush II, some of the other 7 Billion people on the planet thought you would have figured it out by now.

    It's a disgrace to everything the US claims to stand for.

    I respect my friends to the south, but this is really starting to get shameful.

    To ALL my American friends, I apologize if this is in any way seen as an insult. It is not intended as such. I suppose my entire message can be boiled down to one word: EXASPERATION.

    January 3, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. Tom

    It's interesting as a Minnesota voter and resident to see all the comments from non-Minnesotans complaining about Al Franken as a candidate. They refer to him as a "puke" and an "idiot". Skipping the fact that he's a Harvard grad and they have the grammatical skills of an 8th grade dropout, he was the nominee of the Democratic party, he raised more money than any other Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in the country and he is leading in the recount with the Republican incumbent filing suit to prevent the counting of ballots. This is the same incumbent that said the day after the election, "I'm ahead, so Franken should just drop out." Now that Coleman's behind, why doesn't that same logic apply to him? If you're not from Minnesota and don't like our Senate candidates, don't vote for them (wait, you can't). Let me amend that. If you don't like our Senate candidates, mind your own business and stay in your own state.

    January 3, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. JS

    The right wants to call Franken corrupt, but they offer up nothing to back it up. They hate Franken because he has opened his mouth to attack the right. That is why they hate him, he took on Bush, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter and any other right wing stooge.

    They spin this into a Franken problem, but it is Coleman who is using the courts to stop votes from being counted.

    P.S. Franken is no hollywood has been, he is from Minnesota, and most his career was in NYC. Hilarious that the right goes on about Hollywood has beens when they brought us Reagan, Arnold, Sonny Bono, Fred Thompson.....

    January 3, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  20. Bush stole an election, Franken won it

    Whining Republicans: The election is over! Stop obstructing the will of the Minnesota election process. You already stole the 2000 presidential election. Oh yea, you are going to Filibuster, Franken in the senate.
    This country is in a mess because of the GOP Running congress for six years and the White House for 8 yrs.. Pelosi should of never taken impeachment off the table after the elections of 2006.
    Everyone who voted for Bush 8 years ago deserve what they get from the policy failures of the Bush/Cheney Whitehouse. Phil Grahamm a Republican was wrong that Americans are all about whining about the economy and that its all in our minds on the problems about the economy.

    January 3, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  21. Joyce Becker

    Come on Norm, you know you lost, give it up and go back to being a doctor where you can do he most good. If you go to the Senate on Monday you won't be able to get your old seat or your office back, you are finished.

    January 3, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  22. Deb

    Filibuster. That's all the Republicans talk about. They will filibuster to keep Franken from being seated. They will filibuster Obama's recovery plans. They will filibuster this, that, and the other. In other words, the Republican Party has publicly declared that if they don't get their way on everything they will pitch the equivalent of a political temper tantrum and make sure that they block anything from getting done. No matter who it hurts. No matter what the consequences. No matter how much damage they do to this country and its people. How very patriotic and responsible of them. With friends like these, who needs terrorists?

    January 3, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  23. JAMES HOLLAND

    Thank goodness Al Franken is not from Hollywood – he is a won't to be! So he got his friend Al Gored to finance Air America ( a take off on the CIA Vietnam South East Asia Airline), which belly-upped. Now that he has learned how to Bankrupt a Network he wants to Join Pelosi and Dirty Harrry and finish what they have started for our Government.

    But if your Gov. Pawlenty is smart he will order a new State wide Election run-off just as Georgia did – and Norm Coleman will win hands down, beecause the ACORNS will have been rotted by now and not available to pack the ballot boxes for him as they did in November.

    January 3, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  24. Chuck

    The New York Times did a recount of Florida 2000 and even they believe Bush won.

    So the democrats need to move on and stop stealing elections.

    They stole the election for governor in Washington in 2004. The republican won the first two counts. But, what do you know democrats kept finding ballots like they are in Minn. And they finally found enough so the democrat won the third recount.

    They are trying it again in Minn.

    It is a sad day for democracy in America. We used to laugh at these type things happening in other countries. Now the joke is on us.

    January 3, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  25. Ennis, LA

    I THINK A NEW ELECTION SHOULD BE HELD TO ELECT A

    CLEAR WINNER.

    January 3, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
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