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. Sarah

    Make them filibuster. If they want to hold the U.S.A. hostage because they don't like the fact that they lost an election, let them filibuster. It will only drag the Republicans down into the dirt even further. The GOP is a regional party and only getting smaller.

    January 3, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. Bruce

    If Minnesotans allow this clown Franken to steal an election, they will get the leadership they deserve. Everyone with half a brain knows that there is corruption and theft going on in Minnesota right now. I cannot see any state, even Minnesota, actually voting for an idiot like Franken. Someone throw out all the votes and let there be a run-off election. If you need money to pay for it, just ask for some bailout money. It doesn't appear to be especially designated for anyone.

    January 3, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  3. Chipster

    Franken had a very good education and did well enough to qualify to get into Harvard. He graduated cum laude, so he's got a few brain cells, and participated in a college work-study program. He has authored a couple of books that reveal how well-informed and clever he is.

    Franken also has a great sense of humor, something he will need when he takes his seat in the senate. Just because he has worked as a comedian does not mean he is a joke or unintelligent. In fact, quite the opposite. Most comedians are very bright and well-informed. Minnesota could do a lot worse, in fact, they have.

    People ridiculed Jesse Ventura, simply because he was a professional wrestler. However, Ventura worked very hard for the people of Minnesota. I don't understand why people want to disparage any who has done well at an honest job.

    January 3, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. tired of it all

    A recount without consistent rules for what is valid is nothing more than a fraud.

    January 3, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  5. Christian Vreeland

    I love how people are discrediting Franken as a choice as a senator. Probably the same people who thought Arnold would never be worth anything as a governor, there is a reason millions of people vote for someone, because they believe he's the best choice

    January 3, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. B. Edwards

    For "Dan Devine" – At least we can see why Republicans are becoming an endangered species. If the world is lucky, Bush's last official act will be refusing to put them on the Endangered Species list. Let that be his legacy....

    January 3, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  7. philip

    Gee this sounds just like 2000 all over again. The Republicans want to interfer with the process until the clock runs out and the Democrats want to count all the ballots the election officials (the experts) say are legit and let the chips fall where they may. As you may recall, when several news organizations went back and conducted a recount in Florida, 1) Gore would have won, 2) we would not have gone to Iraq, lost our reputation, almost 5,000 young americans, and a war (yes once we leave it's going back to the insame state of the past 3000 years whether we leave in 2009 or 2999) and 3) Our economy would not be worse off than the Great Depression. Plus hundreds of other destructive events of the last 8 years.

    Thanks GOP!

    January 3, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  8. Pat Henry

    Let Franken win. Leno and the resat of our favorite social comentators will have lots of material for six years. The earlier hour will be great, and we can go to bed laughing (or crying).

    January 3, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  9. Nancy in Minnesota

    Al Franken is an intelligent, thoughtful, articulate man who will serve the people of Minnesota just fine thank you!!!!

    Welcome to Washington Mr. Franken–Given em Hell!!!!

    January 3, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  10. Phil

    Sounds like a lot of Republicans on this thread have gotten too used to having their way stealing elections in places like Florida and Ohio through fraudulently challenging voter registration, spoiled ballots, absentee votes uncounted, rejection of provisional ballots etc An excellent account of how the republicans mastered and employ these techniques is in "Armed Madhouse" by Greg Palast. Give it up Coleman you lost.

    January 3, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  11. Mike - Stanley, KS

    Why do the Democrats want to count only 1,350 ballots and the Reuplicans wan to coun them all. Is both sides following MN law about recounts. In this situation, the voters of MN loses. Six years from now, MN voters will not remember this. If MN voters really CARED, they would start cleaning house with local officials. Doubt
    that has happen. MN voters have no one to blame but themselves.

    January 3, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  12. Stanley in NJ

    Ummm... Obama, the best campaign and election money can buy... Franklin, best election shadiness can steal....

    January 3, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. Matthew

    If it was so important for Franken to consider those 1,350 improperly rejected ballots, why not these additional 650? Oh, because they're from Republican leaning districts. What a hypocrite! Count every vote...as long as they voted for me!!!

    January 3, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  14. John G

    Okay this is just stupid.

    Pick any Monday
    Tell the Candidates that one week from that day there will be a runoff and they may use the next seven days to Campaign.
    The Night before the election-hold a debate
    Whoever wins the runoff is the winner.
    End of story.

    January 3, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  15. what is wrong with 99 or 98 senators

    don't seat him, if enough aren't seated than the dems have the majority

    January 3, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. Jane

    I love all these people who leave comments who are NOT from Minnesota and have NO idea what the facts are. Except for the extremes on both sides, the rest of us are content to wait until all the votes are counted and see who wins. I personally hope it will be Senator Franken, but if not – then the process needs to be fair. And, it was not Franken who ordered a recount, but the State of MN, where, by law, there has to be one if the margin is within a certain percentage – which it certainly was. Please – know the facts before making such outrageous comments. All the ballots are there for the public to see so there are no hidden or lost votes – and none found in someones trunk .

    January 3, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  17. Paul

    Texas Teacher, I'm glad you're not "teaching" my kids your looney liberal ideas.

    For the record it was the Dems who tried (and failed) to use the law to steal an election which was conducted by the rules.

    As for George, at least he has prevented another 9/11 in this country. Good for him.

    January 3, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  18. Bryan

    Some people seem to think that Franken wants all the votes counted, while Coleman doesn't. Read the article. Franken only wants votes counted from areas that he will gain votes. They both don't want it to be fair, they want to win.

    January 3, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  19. John G

    And for the record, the GOP is fully within it's rights to block the seating of a Senator who has not won yet!

    January 3, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. Annie, Atlanta

    Why is it Republicans try to use the legal system to win elections instead of counting the votes of the people? There's a real theme here that I frankly find tiring. It's "We the people," darnit.

    January 3, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  21. Chris

    Um... Franken did not "order" the recount – it was required by state law due to how close the election was, and now Franken is ahead, showing that the hasty election night counting had errors. The system is working just fine, folks. Only sore losers lie and make-up facts.

    January 3, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  22. shannon

    as a Minnesotan who supported Franken, I'm very sorry I did that. I wish now that I had gone third party. The absurd, childish behavior of both Franken and Coleman show me that neither is fit to lead and help our country with the tuff choices ahead. We need reasonable adults, not sulking children.

    January 3, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  23. texas

    john cornyn should stay out of this, he doesnt do squat for most texans anyway

    January 3, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  24. bsb from Missouri

    When Colman was ahead he wanted to declare himself the winner, and he didn't want to count the absent-tee ballots. Now that he is behind Franken, Colman wants to go into the ballots where there was some questions as to clearity of those with errors. Colman just can't stand being the under-dog. I am for Franken, but if Colman wins legally that should be fair. However, we also want Franken to win legally. So keep counting!

    January 3, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  25. Kyle C.

    This is why MN needs a run-off!

    January 3, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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