Franken Lawyer Grills Election Official In GOP Town

In the Minnesota election trial today, Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton appears to be laying out a case that election officials have applied inconsistent standards in how they treated absentee ballots — exactly the sort of case Norm Coleman has made.

The rub: The case is that a local election official in a Republican area has been especially strict with ballots the Franken camp wants included, and permissive for Coleman.

Over the last two days the court has been interviewing Sandy Engdahl, the elections manager for the GOP-leaning Minneapolis suburb of Plymouth. Yesterday, Engdahl in many cases agreed with Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg that some ballots had been improperly rejected. She even went further and volunteered that over the last few days she’d found 11 more envelopes that ought to be included, which weren’t ruled as such during the review of rejected ballots this past December.

Then it was Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton’s turn.Hamilton went over those 11 new ballots with Engdahl, along with other ballots that had been offered by Friedberg, and reviewed problems that do actually exist on those votes. In one case Engdahl bluntly said: “Yes, I stand corrected with that.”

Hamilton then took a trip back in time to the absentee-ballot review in December. The Franken campaign had submitted to Plymouth the cases of three voters who were asking for their ballots to be included. Engdahl had rejected all three at the time.

For example, one of them was a blind woman, who explained that her son signed the forms for her. Having someone else sign a ballot form is normally illegal — except for someone who is unable to sign their name due to a problem such as a disability, which is specifically codified in state law.

But Engdahl continued to say this ballot shouldn’t be counted — that it was not the genuine signature belonging to this woman. And she said this even after Hamilton had her read from the relevant statute.

Hamilton also reviewed other envelopes that roughly match the ones that Engdahl has now said should be counted — presumably the ballots Hamilton is offering are Franken votes — and securing agreement that if she is for counting other ballots she’s given assent to in the last two days, these should be counted, too.

One other thing worth pointing out: During her entire cross-examination so far with Hamilton, Engdahl has appeared to be very uncomfortable.