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. dickt

    So what is wrong with a comedian being elected to the US Senate? Being a comedian at his level takes a great deal of skill and talent. It doesn't mean you aren't capable of being intelligent. Let's not forget that B Grade actor Ronald Reagan who became Governor of California and President of the United States. He was quite successful. Who knows, Al Franken could become a great US Senator.

    January 3, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. Allen

    Chris- Because the original count had Coleman winning by less than 1% of the vote, a recount was automatic due to Minnesota regulations. No one had to seek out a recount, because it was already gonna happen. I do think its funny that Coleman is trying to get the absentee ballots counted, when he was the one who originally opposed counting them when it looked like they'd help Franken. Franken had to sue to even get a guideline as to under what circumstances they would be counted. I guess now that he is losing, Coleman figures counting them might help. To bad most of the absentee ballots are from people who are from a predominately democratic district.

    January 3, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  3. Michael

    Hey Dan Devine,

    Republicans are liars and cheats down to the last man, so why don't you STFU!

    January 3, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. Chicago Red

    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 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  5. Lloyd

    If a ballot has been casted, why isn't it counted? If you do not count all ballots, then our way of electing a senator is not legal. Once a ballot has been cast, whether in person on election day or earlier, then it should be counted. If they are not counted then our process of electing a person is wrong.

    January 3, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. Who Cares

    "As it stands no matter who wins the other side will claim the result was illegitimate."

    So what?

    January 3, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. tcaudilllg

    This is a scandalous tactic by the same soulless man who brought you the Bush presidency: argue that the law is somehow wrong and unreliable for counting the ballots. If they are allowed to do this now, it will simply be the case that recounts will not exist and only the appearance of a winner will determine the winner of a race. That's not democracy, that's fraud.

    January 3, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  8. Karen

    "Franken and the dems...ordered a recount."


    The count results, as defined by MInnesota's Constitution, required the recount.

    Franken and the dems had nothing to do with the state's constitution. Nor did Coleman and the GOP.

    Hollywood also has nothing to do with this...I don't care if you like celebrity-turned-politicians or not. Further, Franken was never a product of Hollywood. Unless Saturday Night Live is actually produced in Hollywood, and they've been lying to us all these years.

    Hey, if you can't get a life, at least take the time to get the facts straight.

    January 3, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  9. amt

    don't let the repubs steal this election, they are trying hard, that is what they do best, steal elections that is.

    January 3, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  10. David, Chicago, IL

    >H January 3rd, 2009 2:07 pm ET




    Dear Mr All Caps:

    Uhmmm...well....if he thinks you're an idiot. it's probably because you are. Steal? Jail? You voted for Palin, didn't you, Mr. WebTV?

    January 3, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. klonso

    Peesue, Katherine Harris, a hard right conservative, gave the election for the Republicans because the judges that Bush Sr. appointed to the supreme court let her. The US has paid dearly for the Bush theft. Dem stealing ballots? Your conservative hypocrisy is beyond my comprehension. I guess you also conveniently forget that Palin's kid has a bastard child and Cheney's daughter is gay? I'll bet you don't believe in evolution either. No wonder our nation is in crisis.

    January 3, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. Proud American

    "Rich" Wow thanks your the voice of reason in America. Republicans = Sore Idiot Losers.

    January 3, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. Sarha

    Real Minnesotans would have preferred Ace Ventura. No on really cares about these two. There are both party insiders.

    January 3, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  14. To peesue

    I'm a Minnesotan. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience here. Give us another shot, I'm sure you just ran into the few bad eggs. Many Minnesotans would gladly invite you into their home and feed you an enormous amount of food – then send you home with all the leftovers.

    I went to Atlanta once and vowed never to return based on a few horrible people there, but I think deep down I know if I went back, I'd meet some great Southern folks.

    And not all of us voted for Franken. : )

    Have a great 2009.

    January 3, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  15. Scott

    I am astonished at how many of the posters here are so keen to show how clueless they are in such a public forum. The only difference between this and the 2000 election is that in Florida the dems. were not permitted to openly steal the election. Is there any question that if there is a dishonest count there is sure to be a democrat with the calculator? With half witted supporters, of course they try time and again. Luckily it is only in obnoxiously liberal states like Minnesota where they get away with it.

    January 3, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. Andrew Bethel

    Why don't people respect vote counts any more? It's as if election day is nothing but theater, and the winner is your guy no matter what. The people of the state voted, and whoever wins based on the vote count is the winner. Period. Stop tearing at the seams of American democracy and be happy we even get the choice.

    January 3, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  17. SC

    That's so lame. Is this the only way Republicans know how to steal an election victory? Shame on you! I think Obama was right. Republicans know how to win but are clueless when it comes to governing.

    January 3, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  18. Craig Tennant

    Please vote for me, Al Franken...

    January 3, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  19. worriedmom

    Franken is a joke. i say have a race all over again and let the people of Minnesota decide who they want to represent him. Not ACORN or Solis or Harry Reid!!!
    At least let honest votes be counted on both sides!!!

    January 3, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. aware

    Franken is about on a par with the dem palm-greasing, corrupt cronies in the Senate! 🙁

    Reid, Pelosi, Frank, Dodd, Biden... and probably PEBO are in it for themselves!

    Hope and Pray for representatives with authentic moral centers in 2012! 🙂

    January 3, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  21. ran

    We do not need another Florida here. Let ever vote count and count every vote. Either accept the election as is or have a run off election.

    January 3, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  22. zack

    wow republicans are still complaining about how democrats rig elections. Too bad all government officials today can't have the perfect fairness and legality our great president had in 2000. Get over it cry babys

    January 3, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  23. 2sense

    How many Gophers are kicking themselves in the butt for not voting?

    January 3, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  24. minnesotan

    I am a minnesotan and am personally sick of the campaigns and I am also sick and tired of all the criticism minnesota voters have been getting. It is not our fault the candidates hate each other.

    January 3, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  25. Helm Matthews

    Hmm, many see Franken as a joke. Have they forgotten who has been president the last eight years? And what's with all this hate on Minnesota? Every state has elected loonies. So, lay off. I especially love comments from people in states that don't even come close to Minnesota student's ACT/SAT results and our high school graduation rates. So, witless buffoons, bug off!

    January 3, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
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