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Ballots from local voters could be counted in U.S. Senate race

Norm Coleman, left, and Al Franken.

WILLMAR -- One absentee ballot from Kandiyohi County and four from Lac qui Parle County have risen to the top in the ongoing election recount saga between Norm Coleman and Al Franken.

Those five ballots are some of the thousands that may have been wrongly rejected on election night and among the 400 ballots that the state's three-judge panel may actually count for the U.S. Senate race.

"You hate to see people think their vote doesn't count," said Robert Ludvigson of Madison.

The absentee ballot of his son, Christopher, is one of the 400 ballots rejected but chosen by the judges for reconsideration. In a ruling Tuesday, the judges provided a list of voters whose ballots could be counted. County auditors are required to send the original ballot envelopes to the secretary of state by Monday.

The judges want to take a closer look at those 400 ballots. Once they see the actual absentee ballots and envelopes, instead of the copies that were provided in the courtroom, the judges will make a final decision on whether or not they should be counted.

"He did everything right. He had everything completed," Ludvigson said of his son, who is a college student in South Dakota. "Then it's frustrating if they don't count it."

Ludvigson's ballot, as well as the ballots of two other college students from Lac qui Parle County -- Christopher Schacherer and Travis Schacherer, was initially rejected because the election judge could not find the absentee application form, which is needed to compare signatures from the outer envelope.

It turns out the applications for all three of those ballots were inside the secrecy envelope along with the ballot, said Jacob Sieg, Lac qui Parle County auditor/treasurer. Those three ballots were cast in Garfield Township.

It can be a judgment call of the election judge on whether or not to open that envelope on election night if they suspect the application is in there, or just reject the ballot because the application cannot be found.

"It's not really black and white whether they should open it or not," said Sieg, who began his job in 2007 and ran his first election last year.

It's Sieg's opinion that those three ballots should be counted.

The fourth ballot in Lac qui Parle County, cast by Hubert Redepenning, was rejected because the signatures didn't match. The voter is an elderly man who has "shaky" handwriting, Sieg said.

The judges also selected the absentee ballot of Jessup Schiks, who voted in Kandiyohi County. That ballot was rejected by local officials because the signature on the ballot application didn't match the ballot envelope.

The affected county auditors will have to locate the specific ballots from the boxes of ballots that have been sealed in locked rooms, and prepare them for delivery to the secretary of state. Counties were given specific instructions on how to mail them or hand-deliver them to St. Paul.

Sieg said he had no idea that the November 2008 election would still be hanging on in April. The process has been beneficial as a learning tool for training election judges for future elections.

For the Ludvigson family the lesson learned -- again -- is that every vote counts.

Ludvigson said he failed to win a county board primary election by one vote when one of his children didn't vote because they were at college. He said it's frustrating that his son did vote this year and it still may not be counted.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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