Franken sues for access to absentee ballots

[email protected] The Al Franken campaign filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County Court Thursday against Joseph Mansky , the Ramsey County election manager, and others for information regarding rejected absentee ballots . Franken, who currently trails Republican Sen. Norm Coleman by 206 votes in the contested U.S. Senate race , is asking for the âÄúnames and addresses of all persons who submitted absentee ballots in connection with the general election of Nov. 4, 2008, but whose absentee ballots were rejected or otherwise not counted,âÄù according to the complaint. The complaint alleges that the campaign filed for the information under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act on Nov. 9, and as of Thursday was denied access. Colleen Murray, a spokeswoman for the Franken campaign, said they are looking for information on absentee ballots that were disqualified. âÄúA number of these absentee ballots that were rejected were probably rejected for good reason, but there are some mistakes,âÄù Murray said. One ballot Murray cited as an improper rejection was from a woman in Beltrami County, whose ballot was rejected because her signature was different than the one on file with the county due to a stroke the woman suffered. âÄúOur goal here is to make sure that every vote that was legally cast is counted,âÄù Murray said. Murray said the lawsuit was filed in Ramsey County due to a number of absentee ballots that were thrown out there, but the campaign is requesting names from rejected absentee ballots from every county in the state. The complaint also mentions that on Nov. 11, Coleman requested information on absentee ballots as well. Murray said since the ballots are sealed, it doesnâÄôt matter which way a person voted. âÄúIf someone cast their vote fairly and properly, that vote should be counted,âÄù she said. In a written statement, the Coleman campaign said the lawsuit betrayed the trust of Minnesotans. âÄúWe urge the Court to preserve the privacy rights of Minnesota voters and order the counties to produce only the information necessary for the campaigns to conduct the statewide recount,âÄù the statement continued. The lawsuit, which was filed one day after the statewide canvassing board was chosen to begin the recount, will not interrupt the recount, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann said. âÄúWe will proceed forward as normal,âÄù Gelbmann said. Gelbmann also said the dispute will be handled by the counties and not by the Secretary of StateâÄôs office. âÄúAbsentee ballots and names are never forwarded on to the Secretary of StateâÄôs office if they are rejected,âÄù he said. âÄúAll data is held by the counties.âÄù While Gelbmann would not speculate on the Franken campaignâÄôs strategy in the suit, he did say that after talking with FrankenâÄôs lawyer, he had indicated he felt some of the ballots had been improperly rejected, and that if they do find out the names and information they would contact those people. Individuals who felt their absentee ballot was improperly rejected can dispute it in their home counties, who would decide on the matter, Gelbmann said. A county ruling in favor of the individual would send the ballot to the Secretary of State. University political science professor Steven Rosenstone said he believes this is just one tactic of many that we will see in the coming weeks and months. âÄúSo few elections have ever been this close, everybody is trying to make sure every single vote counts,âÄù Rosenstone said. Rosenstone said in an election where the winner could be determined by only a handful of votes, it is important to ensure that votes werenâÄôt improperly rejected. âÄúThis is not the last weâÄôve heard from either of the campaigns,âÄù Rosenstone said. âÄúEverybody is fighting over every single vote.âÄù