Three-judge panel to rule on absentee ballot categoriesby Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio
The three-judge panel hearing Republican Norm Coleman's election contest holds a hearing Thursday on a move that could shorten the trial.
St. Paul, Minn. — The panel has asked both sides to argue whether 19 separate categories of absentee ballots should or should not be included in the judge's final tally. In the past three weeks of trial, attorneys have introduced hundreds of ballots one by one.
Republican Norm Coleman is contesting the State Canvassing Board's findings that put Democrat Al Franken ahead by 225 votes in the recount.
Coleman's attorney, Ben Ginsberg, said the panel should review most categories of absentee ballots.
"We ask for virtually every ballot to be included so that Minnesota voters can have their votes counted," Ginsberg said.
Lawyers for Democrat Al Franken contend that the judges should do just the opposite. Franken attorney Marc Elias said the panel should limit the categories of ballots under consideration based on a strict reading of Minnesota election law, because Minnesota limits who can vote absentee compared to other states.
"It is not a state like many others in the country that has moved to a no-excuse absentee voting, it still requires a valid reaons to vote absentee here," Elias said. "Nor has it moved to no-witness absentee voting as many other states has. Nor has it moved to early voting as many states has."
The two sides have agreed on two categories:
- The panel should reject absentee ballots submitted by voters in an absentee return envelope in which the witness is signed by a person identified as a notary public but no notarial seal or stamp is affixed to the absentee ballot return envelope
- panel should reject absentee ballots cast by non-registered voters who failed to register to vote.