Senate trial continues one absentee at a time

ST. PAUL (AP) âÄî Judges in the trial over Minnesota’s Senate race have begun considering thousands of rejected absentee ballots, one at a time, in a process that could take weeks. A day earlier, the three-judge panel ruled that Republican Norm Coleman could argue for the admission of nearly 4,800 ballots that might have been rejected improperly. Those potential votes are Coleman’s main hope for overturning Democrat Al Franken’s 225-vote lead. âÄúThe panel is going to take its own view of each of these ballots and make sure that every legally cast and wrongfully rejected ballot is opened and counted,âÄù Judge Denise Reilly said Wednesday. Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg had Washington County’s election supervisor on the stand Wednesday and was going through ballots one at a time, asking why they were rejected. Friedberg was averaging two to three minutes per ballot. So far, it’s impossible to track how many rejected ballots might eventually be accepted. The judges haven’t responded to the evidence given on specific ballots. Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said there could be ways to reduce the number of ballots that must be entered into evidence individually. But it would likely take an agreement with Franken’s attorneys, which hasn’t happened. The judges agreed to consider up to 4,797 rejected absentee ballots, but they will end up reviewing some lesser number. Friedberg struck some of the ballots himself, mostly because they didn’t fit into the two categories the judges said they would consider: those where it appeared the voter met the legal requirements, and those where they might have run afoul of the law through no fault of their own. For each rejected ballot Wednesday, Friedberg moved two items into evidence âÄî the envelope that contained the ballot and the application form the voter filled out to obtain it. Friedberg asked Kevin Corbid, the Washington County elections official, about one ballot apparently rejected because an election judge thought the voter’s signature on the ballot application didn’t match the one on the envelope. âÄúWould you take a look at the way it’s printed âÄî whether or not the ‘P’ and the ‘H’ in Josephine are almost identical on the application and the envelope?âÄù Friedberg asked. He later asked Corbid if he now thought it was correct to reject the ballot. âÄúBased on what’s in front of me, no,âÄù Corbid said. Friedberg finished with Corbid after about five hours on Wednesday. In seven hours over two days, the pair made it through about 180 rejected absentees. Franken’s attorneys didn’t question Corbid about Coleman’s absentees, limiting their questions to procedures for cleanly administering elections in Washington County. Franken’s attorneys have said they believe most of the nearly 4,800 absentees were rejected appropriately. Under state law, there are four legal reasons to reject absentee ballots: a misplaced signature on the envelope; the name and address on the envelope don’t match voter rolls; the voter isn’t properly registered; or the voter also voted on Election Day.