Norm Coleman turns to voters in U.S. Senate case; hundreds might testify
ST. PAUL -- Gerald Anderson climbed from his wheelchair and walked slowly to the witness stand. But Anderson, who said he is blind and handicapped, was quick to tell those watching the U.S. Senate election trial that he has voted for many years, ...
ST. PAUL -- Gerald Anderson climbed from his wheelchair and walked slowly to the witness stand.
But Anderson, who said he is blind and handicapped, was quick to tell those watching the U.S. Senate election trial that he has voted for many years, so could not understand why his absentee ballot was discarded in the recent election. The St. Paul man said his wife's ballot was counted while his was rejected.
"We though it would be a good idea, so we did it," the 75-year-old Anderson said of voting absentee, "and I'm sorry we did because of what happened. (My) vote wasn't counted."
A signature problem prevented Anderson's vote from being counted. He was a witness for Norm Coleman's campaign, which says many absentee ballots were wrongly rejected.
"I want it back," Anderson insisted of his ballot. "I'm entitled to my vote."
The trial's second day saw the first of what could be hundreds of witnesses -- voters, county auditors and election workers -- who could testify during the proceeding.
The campaigns of Coleman and Democrat Al Franken each have identified around 150 people as possible witnesses. Coleman began by calling about a half-dozen voters as it tries to argue that the three judges hearing the case should include thousands of new votes in the election tally.
Like he did Monday, Coleman attended the trial Tuesday, sitting alongside his team of attorneys.
"Today we saw the human side of this and that's what this is really about," Coleman said afterward.
Franken attorney Marc Elias said it is about time Coleman focus on individual voters after his campaign has relied on controversial ballot documents "as proxy for real people."
Coleman filed the lawsuit, known as an election contest, to challenge the recount results showing Franken won by 225 votes. The Republican, whose Senate term ended early this month, says rejected absentee ballots were not treated the same way across the state.
In addition to voters, Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg called Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann as a witness. Gelbmann was asked at length about how local officials handle absentee ballots. Friedberg also asked about specific ballot issues in Clay, Pennington, Washington and Dakota counties. In those counties, ballots were initially rejected but after further review were included in the recount. No officials from those counties testified, but may in the coming days or weeks.
The trial, which got off to a rough start Monday, did not resume until early Tuesday afternoon. The three judges spent the morning meeting privately with campaign attorneys and state election officials to discuss trial evidence.
Coleman's campaign wants about 4,500 absentee ballots that were rejected by local officials in the election to be counted in the trial. The campaign attempted to include as evidence copies of those absentee ballot envelopes, but the judges said counties must send original documents.
Judge Denise Reilly of Hennepin County said the court is trying to determine the best way to get those records sent to St. Paul from around the state. She acknowledged it could be a big task for cities and counties that "are under stress and strain for budgetary reasons."
Each campaign said voters make up a small share of its witness list.
Franken's witness list includes at least 164 people. They include election officials from more than a dozen counties, including Clay, St. Louis, Kandiyohi, Beltrami, Becker, Goodhue and Washington. A city of Duluth worker also is named.
Coleman does not identify where witnesses are from, but they are from around the state.