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U.S. Senate recount trial judges will count 23 ballots

ST. PAUL -- Judges deciding Minnesota's U.S. Senate election trial said Tuesday they will count nearly two-dozen improperly rejected absentee ballots.

The 23 ballot envelopes all are believed to contain votes for Democrat Al Franken, who ended the recount with a 225-vote lead over Norm Coleman. Coleman is challenging that result in the election trial.

The 23 voters were among 61 who filed legal documents claiming their absentee ballots were wrongly rejected in the Nov. 4 election and Senate recount.

After the election, Franken supporters contacted the voters and asked if they wanted to fight to have their votes counted. Some ballots had been rejected because of voter signature discrepancies, others because of administrative error.

The three judges presiding over the trial ordered that the ballots -- from 11 counties around the state -- be sent to the secretary of state. The court did not say when the votes would be counted.

The judges ruled that a 24th ballot envelope should be opened to determine if it includes a voter registration card. If it does contain the card, that ballot will be counted.

Coleman's campaign, which is arguing that up to 4,800 rejected absentee ballots should be reviewed and possibly counted, applauded the decision.

"While these were all Franken supporters, we take it nonetheless as a very good ruling consistent with the court's desire to enfranchise all wrongly rejected ballots," Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said.