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Judges to examine disputed ballots

ST. PAUL - Judges deciding Minnesota's U.S. Senate election trial indicated today that they will review individual absentee ballots as part of the proceeding.

As attorneys for Norm Coleman and Al Franken discussed this morning whether certain uncounted absentee ballots should be reviewed for possible counting, one of the three judges interjected to say the panel will look at ballots they believe must be counted.

"The panel is going to take its own view of each of these ballots and make sure that every legally cast and wrongfully rejected ballot is opened and counted," Hennepin County District Court Judge Denise Reilly said.

Reilly is joined on the panel by Judge Kurt Marben of Pennington County and Judge Elizabeth Hayden of Stearns County.

While the court has issued written orders in the case, Reilly's statement was the court's first public comment about what it will consider part of the trial.

The judges ruled Tuesday that Coleman's campaign could submit as evidence absentee ballots it believes were wrongfully rejected in the election. That could amount to roughly 4,800 ballots, Coleman's campaign estimates. In addition, Franken attorneys have proposed counting 771 absentee ballots that were rejected in the election. Some of those may be included in Coleman's pile of 4,800.

The trial continued this morning with testimony from Washington County election official Kevin Corbid. Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg presented to Corbid copies of absentee ballot envelopes, asking him to determine why they were rejected and whether they should be opened and counted.

The trial is a result of Coleman's lawsuit that challenges the election results that gave Franken a 225-vote victory. Wrongfully rejected absentee ballots are at the center of Coleman's case. He claims counties used different standards to decide which absentee ballots should be counted in the election.