Dem Election Worker: Coleman Camp’s Story About Duplicated Ballots Happened — I Was There

February 27, 2009 1:36 p.m.

The Coleman campaign could potentially be in some serious hot water in their effort to prove that double-counting of absentee ballots occurred, after it was revealed that they concealed evidence involving the testimony of a key witness, Republican precinct worker Pamela Howell.

But here’s the thing about Howell’s testimony: The story itself appears to be true. Democratic precinct worker Shawn Isenhart, who served in the same precinct with Howell, confirmed to me that there was indeed a failure to properly label the original and duplicate copies of a few damaged absentee ballots in that precinct.

Isenhart was there when the precinct workers realized what had happened, which was the key event in Howell’s testimony. He thinks it happened to around six ballots, but could possibly as high as 15.

These instances of human error, when election workers failed to fully prepare and label the copied ballots, were the first step that created the potential for a very small number of votes to be counted twice during the recount — or in some cases the opposite occurring, and the vote not counted at all. This was due in large part to the rules that both campaigns had agreed to in conducting the recount, for how to handle these ballots, and which the Coleman campaign has since declared to have been improper and illegal.

However, my own observation after speaking to Isenhart is that this doesn’t really redeem Team Coleman. If anything, it shows just how sloppy and reckless they’ve been in making their case.As Franken attorney David Lillehaug noted earlier today, Howell was the only precinct election judge that the Coleman camp called to the witness stand, in order to discuss instances of this problem. And now the credibility of her testimony has been seriously damaged.

Team Coleman had their choice of people to call — for example, they could have called the actual election workers who failed to label the ballots, but they didn’t do that. Instead, they called just the head election judge for this precinct, who the Franken campaign has been able to tear down as a partisan witness.

If her testimony is struck from the record — for a second time, no less, after the judges did it once and then reversed themselves — they’ll be in serious trouble. And if the court goes all the way with what Franken’s lawyers want, and dismiss the entire double-counting claim because of misconduct in the trial, it will have been an unforced error of monumental proportions.

(Note: Precinct workers in Minnesota are selected on a partisan basis, and for sensitive tasks such as ballot duplication they are paired up across party lines. Howell, who was serving as the chief election judge for the district, is a Republican, and as noted above Isenhart is a Dem.)

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