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Senate election trial to start Jan. 26

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's U.S. Senate election goes on trial in about a week.

A three-judge panel presiding over Norm Coleman's election lawsuit on Friday set a brisk timeline for legal filings leading up to a Jan. 26 trial opening. On Wednesday, the panel will consider a request by Al Franken to throw out Coleman's lawsuit.

Coleman is challenging the election results that gave Franken 225 more votes out of about 2.9 million cast.

The order came after the district court judges -- Kurt Marben of Pennington County, Elizabeth Hayden of Stearns County and Denise Reilly of Hennepin County -- met behind closed doors with campaign attorneys.

Coleman's campaign had suggested a February trial date. Franken wanted proceedings to begin sooner.

Key Coleman complaints about the election are that the process used to consider absentee ballots was flawed and that some votes were counted twice.

Those are issues the three judges will consider. The scope of the election contest broadened Friday when the Supreme Court ordered that the judicial panel also should consider a case filed by 64 Franken supporters whose absentee ballots were not counted in the election.

The voters petitioned directly to the Supreme Court, but Justice Alan Page said their issue is better left to the panel hearing the election contest.

The trial will be held at the Minnesota Judicial Center near the Capitol. Minnesota media outlets have asked the judges to allow cameras and audio recording devices in the courtroom. No decision has been announced.