County says 'illegal' ballots are just fine
ST. PAUL -- There is more to the story of St. Louis County's controversial 300 ballots. St. Louis County officials said Thursday there is a legitimate explanation for at least some of the 300 ballots Norm Coleman's campaign has described as "ille...
ST. PAUL -- There is more to the story of St. Louis County's controversial 300 ballots.
St. Louis County officials said Thursday there is a legitimate explanation for at least some of the 300 ballots Norm Coleman's campaign has described as "illegal," and they are reviewing others.
St. Louis County Elections Director Paul Tynjala spent Thursday reviewing controversial ballot documents from his county and determining that Coleman's claim of "illegal" ballots is not entirely accurate.
A day earlier, Coleman's campaign showed reporters examples of 300 absentee ballot documents from St. Louis County. The documents -- mostly copies of absentee ballot envelopes -- lacked required voter and witness information, but had contained votes that were counted in the Nov. 4 election, Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg alleged.
An initial review of at least 80 of those ballots, including three from Duluth voters overseas, suggests the voter and witness provided the required information and signatures, Tynjala said.
He said that in the case of the three Duluth votes, the confusion may have arisen because local election officials transferred those voters' documents -- a sealed secrecy envelope containing the ballot and a form with voter and witness information -- from the envelopes they were mailed in to standard absentee ballot envelopes available at the county.
That was done after county officials determined the votes should be counted, Tynjala said, and the new envelopes simply were used to keep related documents together before election night counting in precincts. But local officials did not complete a form on those transfer envelopes, leaving it to appear on the surface that they were incomplete.
If that's the case, the county did not respond fully to a records request by the campaign, Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said.
Tynjala and St. Louis County Auditor Don Dicklich received subpoenas from the Franken campaign to testify.
Also Thursday, Coleman caught a break related to his allegation that some Minneapolis residents got two votes.
The three judges in the case have reversed their ruling from a day earlier that excluded a Republican poll worker's testimony.
The woman had testified to having direct knowledge of an error that could have caused some voters to have two ballots included in the race.
In court Wednesday, Pamela Howell's testimony was struck after it was discovered she supplied written materials to Coleman's campaign that was not given to Franken's. The judges said then it was grounds to toss out her testimony entirely under civil trial rules.
But in a written order Thursday, the judges said the "inadvertent" error wasn't in bad faith and shouldn't cost Howell the right to testify.
Scott Wente works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the News Tribune.The Associated Press contributed to this report.