Franken Begins Presenting Case — With A Lot Of Voters

March 3, 2009 9:22 a.m.

Today is a big day in the Minnesota trial: The Franken campaign is finally beginning to present their side of the case, after Coleman rested yesterday.

The Franken camp has spent today bringing in a queue of aggrieved voters whose absentee ballots were rejected, 17 of them in total this morning, trying to get the court to rule that these ballots — presumably all for Franken — were wrongly tossed and ought to be put in the count.

The previous attempts by Team Coleman to play this game didn’t go very well — the judges even cited one Coleman witness by name by name as an illegal voter in an important opinion they handed down. So far, it seems to be going well for Franken, though it hasn’t been perfect.

Lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg doesn’t seem to be making too much of an effort to declare that these votes were rejected properly, as the Franken campaign worked to accomplish against his own witnesses. This seems to be for two reasons: Team Coleman has been trying to get the court to reverse itself on their strict standards for letting in rejected votes, and therefore he needs to show good faith. And furthermore, the Coleman camp seem to have changed their approach, to demonstrate the fallibility and unreliability of the system, in order to possibly get the whole election thrown out.

Here’s one exchange between Friedberg and a Franken witness:

Friedberg: Ms. Meyer, can you think of any reason your ballot shouldn’t be opened and counted?

Pamela Meyer: No.

Friedberg: Neither can I. We stipulate this ballot should be opened and counted, Your Honor.

Other cross-examinations were more drawn out than this one was, but you get the idea.Another fun moment came from law student Nicole Nichols, daughter of prominent Minnesota lawyer Donald Nichols, who is the co-founder of a labor-law firm dealing with discrimination, wages, whistleblower-protection and other issues. “I thought I recognized that name,” Franken lawyer David Lillehaug said with a smile.

It even turns out that Friedberg is a friend of hers, due to her interest in criminal defense — in fact, she congratulated him on his 72nd birthday yesterday:

Friedberg: Ms. Nichols, we have met.

Nichols: Yes. Happy birthday.

(Laughter throughout court.)

Friedberg: Thanks.

Friedberg later got to the point, and said he would stipulate that her ballot should be counted “if the opposition would concede the Secretary of State is wrong in having her registered at a prior address.”

Thus we see a fall-back position for Team Coleman: They’re seeing the writing on the wall, that they are highly unlikely to take a lead in this court — and thus they need for the whole system to be impugned.

There were some potential or even likely duds in the Franken sample, though. For example, it turned out that voter Charles Neimeyer actually sent in two absentee ballots — the county rejected his first one, then sent him another one, which he filled in and mailed back. It appears the second one has been counted, which would leave him here in court to argue for the first one, thus counting him twice. Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton seemed quite surprised to hear this, and told the judges that they’ll check in on the situation, and withdraw this witness if that’s how it turns out.

But overall, this has been pretty encouraging for Franken — and probably helped by the sharp change in strategy from Coleman.

The TPM Journalism Fund: A New Way To Support TPM
We're launching the TPM Journalism Fund as an additional way for readers and members to support TPM. Every dollar contributed goes toward:
  • -Hiring More Journalists
  • -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism
Are you experiencing financial hardship?
Apply for a free community-supported membership
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: