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With Coleman's lawyers now wrapped, Franken prepares for his day in court

ST. PAUL -- Now it is Al Franken's turn.

Franken's campaign starts its case in Norm Coleman's U.S. Senate election lawsuit today. The Democrat hopes to build on his slim, 225-vote victory and become Minnesota's next senator.

Coleman's attorneys wrapped up their case Monday after spending 26 days trying to show a three-judge panel that the election and that as many as 2,500 Minnesota voters did not have their valid votes counted in the Nov. 4 election.

The Franken campaign's arguments are strikingly different than Coleman's. Franken attorneys said they will show over the next few weeks that while some voters' absentee ballots were wrongly rejected and should be counted in the trial, the overall election system was sound.

Franken attorney Marc Elias said their case will include "evidence about the good job that the state of Minnesota did."

"Our evidence about the good job that the hard-working auditors and election-night officials did," Elias continued. "Our evidence about how the system worked, by and large."

Franken's campaign wants roughly 1,600 rejected absentee ballots reconsidered during the trial, though nearly half of those also were highlighted by Coleman's campaign.

Franken attorneys will start by questioning 15 to 20 voters today and plan to call many more voters to testify in the St. Paul courtroom. The campaign also will question county auditors and other election officials. It probably will take between two weeks and three weeks to argue its case, Elias said.

Coleman's campaign used a little more than five trial weeks. In that time, the campaign proved that an "alarmingly large number of Minnesota absentee voters remain disenfranchised," Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said.

Also, Ginsberg said, the campaign showed that some votes were counted twice and that local officials applied different standards to similar ballots in different counties.

"We have shown, unfortunately, that the counties use very different standards for judging very much the same ballots, which means that some people were disenfranchised simply because of where they lived as opposed to the way they voted," Ginsberg said.

Not so, said Franken attorneys, who plan to ask the court to dismiss much of Coleman's case for lack of merit.