Judges: No 2nd look at key ballot ruling

Judges denied without comment the request for reconsideration.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) âÄî The judges in the Minnesota Senate trial on Wednesday denied a request from Norm Coleman that they reconsider a ruling unfavorable to his case. That closed off another avenue for Coleman as he seeks to get as many uncounted absentee ballots back into the official tally as he tries to overcome Democrat Al Franken’s 225-vote lead. The judges denied without comment the request for reconsideration. That left Coleman’s lawyers looking for new ways to raise an argument over what they consider unequal treatment of similar votes âÄî a “quagmire,” in the words of Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg, that he said if unaddressed would leave unresolved legal issues at the end of the trial. “We’re exploring all the things we can do,” Ginsberg said, declining to rule out a later appeal to a higher state or federal court. “We’re concentrating on this, but we’re looking at other options.” Last week, the judges eliminated from consideration about a dozen categories of rejected absentee ballots. That limited the number of votes Coleman, a Republican, might be able to get counted as he tries to catch Franken. Even after the ruling, Coleman is still seeking the inclusion of up to 3,500 rejected ballots. But Coleman’s lawyers fought last week’s ruling, asking the judges if they could file a formal motion asking the judges to reconsider it. They say dozens of ballots excluded by the judicial order were rejected for mistakes that are identical to those on other ballots that were counted by the state Canvassing Board or deemed valid votes by the judges. “What the court has now said is there are illegal ballots in Minnesota. But in some cases, the court has allowed in ballots illegal under its own definition,” Ginsberg said after the judges denied the request for reconsideration. Franken’s attorneys have continued to argue that since Minnesota law has clear standards for rejecting absentee ballots, it doesn’t legally matter if enforcement of those standards varied somewhat from one county to the next. “There is one standard âÄî the law. It doesn’t mean counties don’t make mistakes, but if Mr. Coleman wants to do away with that then he’s going to do away with … county involvement in elections altogether.” Elias said Coleman’s continued emphasis on unequal standards, despite the judges’ unwillingness so far to acknowledge it as a problem, appeared to him like sowing the seeds for an appeal to another court. “They’re looking to build their record for appeal, which is their right,” Elias said. Ginsberg said Coleman is still confident that they’d be able to erase Franken’s lead with whatever rejected absentee ballots do get counted. If that doesn’t happen, Coleman would have several options after the current trial: He could appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, a federal court or the U.S. Senate itself. But his prospects don’t seem high for getting that Democrat-controlled institution to accept an argument that Minnesota’s election system was systematically flawed. The trial itself continued Wednesday, with testimony from the election officials in Scott and Stearns counties. Coleman continued to elicit testimony showing inconsistent standards between counties, but now much of it was not to sway the judges but rather under a legal process called “offers of proof.” That allows Coleman to enter evidence into the trial record that his lawyers believe could come into play during an appeal.