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Pessimistic Coleman says the only way to determine Senate winner may be to conduct entirely new election

Fredrick Amara, a witness for Republican Norm Coleman, testifies Tuesday during the U.S. Senate recount trial in St. Paul. Norm Coleman said Wednesday that a new election may be the only way to determine who actually won the U.S. Senate race in last November's general election. AP Photo/Bruce Bisping, Pool

ST. PAUL -- Norm Coleman says it may not be possible for the U.S. Senate election trial judges to determine who won the race, adding there is a chance judges might need to order a new election.

There are more "illegal" votes in the tally than the 225 votes that separate him from Al Franken, the former Republican senator said Tuesday.

Coleman stopped short of saying the judges should order a new election, but did not rule it out. He was asked whether he agrees with a campaign legal filing that suggested one remedy would be to "set aside" the Nov. 4 election.

"In the end, I think that's something folks will have to think about," Coleman told reporters Tuesday.

A new election is not an option because there is no state law or rule allowing it and there is no precedent, Franken attorney Marc Elias said.

"There is nothing in Minnesota that would suggest that one could simply start over again," Elias said.

Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said the situation surrounding the unresolved Senate election is new for Minnesota, but that the "court has equitable powers to do what it wants."

Coleman is challenging Franken's election victory in court. In the meantime, the Senate seat is vacant and could be for several more months if the loser of the current court contest appeals the decision to a higher state court or the federal courts.

In the courtroom Tuesday, Franken's campaign used the first day of its case to call 23 voters to testify. The voters, all from the Twin Cities area, cast absentee ballots that were rejected in the election.

Franken's campaign called those voters because it believes their ballots were wrongly rejected and should be counted or at least be reconsidered by the court, Elias said.

Coleman attorneys agreed at least four of them should be opened and counted. Some voters testified that while their signatures on ballot documents did not exactly match, they signed them.

"That's me. It's totally me," Fredrick Amara of Burnsville said. His ballot was flagged for mismatched signatures.

Franken's campaign plans to call more voters to the witness stand in the coming days.

The voters' testimony further exposed a flaw with a voter registration database maintained by the secretary of state's office, Coleman's campaign claimed. Some voters' absentee ballots were rejected by election officials because they relied on inaccurate information in that database, attorneys said.