Senate Trial: Gelbmann relieved from witness stand, downplays absentee ballot influx

On the fourth day of the U.S. Senate trial, deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann concluded his marathon two days on the witness stand, but not before discussing the roughly 133 ballots that went missing from a Dinkytown precinct. A thorough search of places the missing ballots might have traveled yielded no results. In the end, the state canvassing board decided to tally election night totals from that precinct. If the ballots were gone âÄî the so-called âÄúchain of custodyâÄù broken âÄî those votes could not be totaled again in the recount, Gelbmann said. But that rationale remains a point of contention for Republican Norm ColemanâÄôs counsel. At an out-of-court press briefing, Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said submitting election night totals in a recount is counterintuitive. âÄúItâÄôs called a recount, not a re-guess,âÄù he said. âÄúIf you donâÄôt have the ballots, itâÄôs not a recount. ItâÄôs a re-guess.âÄù Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg questioned Gelbmann about the idea that the Secretary of StateâÄôs Office, as well as individual precincts, had been overwhelmed by an influx in absentee ballots cast. In fact, Gelbmann said, the number of absentee ballots received was up only slightly from the 2006 election, and added that his office wasnâÄôt surprised at the uptick. As for individual counties, Gelbmann clarified he couldnâÄôt speak to that, and wouldnâÄôt speculate whether more absentee ballots cast meant more errors in counting them. After attorneys finished examining Gelbmann, ColemanâÄôs counsel called to the stand two voters and Ramsey County Elections Manager Joseph Mansky, who occasionally teaches election law seminars through the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Humphrey Institute. âÄîKarlee Weinmann is a Senior Staff Reporter.