Coleman denied request for Minn. ballot inspection - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Coleman denied request for Minn. ballot inspection

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A three-judge panel on Friday rejected Republican Norm Coleman's request to investigate alleged vote-counting irregularities that may have contributed to his opponent's lead in Minnesota's Senate race after a recount.

"The court is not convinced that another inspection of the ballots is efficient or needed to prepare for trial," the judges wrote. The recount trial starts Monday and is expected to last weeks.

Coleman's lawyers had identified 86 precincts where they said problems may have contributed to Democrat Al Franken's 225-vote lead. Coleman is suing to overturn the result.

Franken's attorneys had said Coleman's request was a fishing expedition for votes.

Lawyers for Coleman and Franken on Friday requested the judges whittle down the issues to be considered during the trial and asked them to decide whether some needed to be proven in court.

Franken's lawyers asked the judges to reject Coleman's claims that voting irregularities made the recount totals unreliable in several precincts. For instance, election officials in Maplewood found 171 ballots during the recount that weren't counted on election night and added them to the final count.

Franken's lawyers argued that the situations were handled properly and within the bounds of state law.

"They found errors and they corrected them. That's what recounts are for," said David Burman, a Franken attorney.

Coleman's team asked the judges to allow the counting of about 4,500 absentee ballots that were rejected by elections officials for reasons that Coleman alleged were inconsistent. His lawyers said that in some cases, the ballot was rejected because election workers accidentally covered the voter's signature on the ballot envelope with a sticker.

"They were votes by eligible voters who should have their votes counted - regardless of who they voted for," Coleman attorney Jim Langdon said.

Franken's attorneys said the absentee ballots were rejected for reasons that were valid under state law, and that Coleman didn't seek to restore those votes until he fell behind Franken in the recount.

The judges are likely to rule on the motions for summary judgment next week.            

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)      

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