MN Recount Litigation Begins

The 2008 Minnesota Senate Election Contest began today at 11 AM CT in the Judicial Center of St. Paul. Each side presented their opening statements, which took longer than expected, and nothing really happened. We'll begin our log with the Coleman campaign calling the first witness of the election contest:

2:47 PM CT: Franken Lawyer Marc Elias is questioning a Coleman aid, Kristen Fuzer, familiar with the processes associated with the photocopying or reproduction of ballots. She had worked with the campaign for about 1 year. She is apparently a "Political Director."

2:52 PM CT: The witness is now reading a brief entitled "Reply for Senate Coleman Memorandum Regarding Improperly Rejected Absentee Ballots." It was apparently authored by the Coleman campaign on November 18th. The Coleman campaign objected and it was sustained.

2:59 PM CT: Marc Elias is attempting to get the witness to reveal the internal beliefs of the Coleman campaign regarding rejected absentee ballots. She continues to say that she is "not a lawyer" and that "I was not in the legal meetings."

3:00 PM CT: One of the judges stated that the purpose of the witness is to "lay a foundation for the admissibility of the [ballot] copying issue." The judge then went on to say that each witness may be recalled at a later date. Apparently Elias was completely unaware that this witness was going to be called to the stand.

3:05 PM CT: The witness again said that "it is beyond the scope of my position." Elias then had the witness discuss the situation associated with the image below. The image depicts an error between the original (on the left) and the copy (on the right); the reason for the rejection has been recanted in the duplication:

Litigation Issue 1

3:09 PM CT: Elias just asked the witness to read her own affidavit associated with her contribution to challenging ballots on behalf of the Coleman campaign in Sherburne County.

3:18 PM CT: The witness finished getting "acquainted" with past events by reading, what I believe was here own affidavit. She stated that the Coleman campaign wanted 654 additional rejected absentee ballots. Elias is now done with the witness.

3:19 PM CT: The Coleman campaign then asked the witness if it was possible through the many copies that were made, if some errors occurred. The response: "Yes." Next Witness.

3:20 PM CT: Gloria Sonnet (or Sonnen) works at the law firm Dorsey and Witney in Minnesota.

3:24 PM CT: Gloria was apparently responsible for the compilation of a ballot table. The attorney is asking the witness to state basic facts about the exhibit they are referencing.

3:28 PM CT: A judge just ruled that Exhibits C1 and C2 will be received in the court. I'm not exactly sure what is included, but this is good news for Coleman.

3:30 PM CT: These ballots are marked accepted, despite the fact that they were rejected and not counted.

3:33 PM CT: The witness and lawyer are going through a list of ballots contained within Exhibit C1 and verifying their placement within the exhibit. The ballots listed so far are from Anoka County. A five minute recess has been ordered, which means I can eat quick.

3:47 PM CT: Court back in session. This is going to take forever. They are going through each ballots within C1 and C2 and reading the name of the voter and the original status of the ballot. I should also mention that these are absentee ballots that were not counted. During the recess they showed the binders containing exhibit C1 and C2. There is at least one binder with about an 8 inch spine. I saw three binders total, but they may have been for distribution.

3:51 PM CT: None of these ballots were counted according to the Coleman campaign. The court reaffirmed their motion to conditionally receive these exhibits. Elias stated that "I don't know what to make of these," having just received the evidence and the shift of allocation as Gloria reads through them.

3:53 PM CT: The court believes that election judges and election employees will be called to the stand to speak to the ballots present within the presented exhibits.

3:57 PM CT: There are apparently 5,000 ballots total. This will take a very long time. There are none form Becker County; next onto Benton.

4:05 PM CT: It appears as though they will continue to go through each of the ballots present within C1 and C2; I'll try and get a PDF of the actual exhibits later tonight. They are taking another "brief" recess to consider the objection by the Franken campaign. This will probably be my last entry for today.

5:14 PM CT: The court resumes and declares that the original ballots must be brought to the court house and reviewed in conjunction with Coleman's presentation of exhibits C1 and C2. Coleman must subpoena for this evidence. The court then adjourned. The need for the originals is in large part due to the errors that were made in photocopying the ballots; as previously discussed by the first witness. It seems likely that a subpoena will be granted based upon the Election Contest Court's position. Coleman only needs one county to consent and the rest will likely follow; both based upon precedence and equal protection laws.

Last Friday, Norm Coleman put forth a motion requesting that a certain set of identified ballots be sent to the Election Contest Court for inspection; the court then promptly denied this motion. Today's late decision by the court seems to indicate a departure from their previous order; the absentee ballots in question will eventually be transported to the court house for further review, assuming a subpoena from one of Minnesota's 87 counties is approved. Did the Coleman campaign's sloppy copying facilitate the need for original ballots, or did the need for original ballots facilitate the need for sloppy copying? In either case, Coleman's requested relief will eventually be granted.

The court reconvenes tomorrow at 9 AM CT. If any new documents are posted, specifically the ballots contained within Exhibit C1 and C2, I'll be sure to let you know.

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