MN Senate trial speeds up, but end still far off

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) âÄî The Minnesota Senate trial picked up speed Tuesday, with the lawyers plowing through evidence more quickly than at any other time in the trial. That came after a series of private meetings in recent days between lawyers for Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, at times with the trial judges in attendance. Neither side would discuss what’s been said, but starting Tuesday Coleman’s lawyers entered rejected absentee ballots into evidence in groups instead of one by one. “I do believe we are making progress,” Judge Elizabeth Hayden said as Tuesday’s proceeding began. “The matter is on an expedited track.” The new haste came as a result of a ruling last week by the judges that narrowed the types of rejected absentee ballots that might be counted. Coleman is arguing for the inclusion of up to 3,500 rejected absentee ballots he hopes could help him overcome Franken’s 225-vote lead. The judges also ordered Franken to file by Friday his own list of rejected absentee ballots to be considered for counting. Franken’s list is likely to be smaller than Coleman’s, because his attorneys think Coleman is overestimating the number of wrongful rejections. Once that’s filed, both sides will finally be on record with their total “universe” of ballots âÄî the maximum number of uncounted ballots that could be added. Lawyers said there could be some overlap between the two lists. On Tuesday, lawyers for both candidates started and finished their examination and cross-examination of the top election official in populous Wright County before lunchtime. Previously, it had been taking lawyers two to three days to get through one county. Still, dozens of counties remain, meaning the rest of the trial is likely to be measured in weeks rather than days. Once the judges decide on a final list of rejected ballots to be counted, they’ll have to specify the process by which they’ll actually be opened and tallied. As they questioned Wright County and later Carver County election officials, Coleman’s lawyers entered blocs of ballots into evidence but also tried to point out inconsistencies from one county to the next in handling similar types of ballots. A main Coleman argument has been that that violates a constitutional requirement to treat voters equally.