Frustrated voters turn to courts
ST. PAUL - June Srok doesn't understand why a minor error prevented her vote from being counted.
Srok, 75, said she voted absentee last year because she was injured. Her ballot was not counted because two dates on a ballot envelope did not match, according to a legal filing.
"What the hell do different dates have to do with how I voted?" said Srok, of Duluth. She learned of her ballot problem through a letter from the secretary of state's office. "I was so mad I threw it in the garbage."
Srok is among Minnesota voters who supported Democrat Al Franken for U.S. Senate but did not have their absentee ballots tallied. They agreed to be part of a petition before the Minnesota Supreme Court to get those votes counted.
Sought by the campaigns - both Franken and Norm Coleman have identified voters whose ballots they said weren't counted - dozens of average Minnesotans could end up playing bit parts in the political theater that is the unresolved Senate race.
Franken supporters asked 64 people to be named in their petition, but not all understood their name is in a document headed for the high court.
"Oh, really?" said Donna Mae Mortenson of Glenwood when told Wednesday of the petition. "They didn't tell me that."
Mortenson said she believes her absentee ballot was rejected because she changed apartment units within the same building - a minor address discrepancy. She said that move was necessary because she is handicapped.
"It's very confusing and I'm not about to worry about it," Mortenson said of her ballot issue, adding that she was willing to offer her name for the Franken-supporting petition but wants no more involvement.
"It's a mess," she lamented of the Senate race. "They've got to do something about it."
Jeffrey Dustin of Moorhead said he was shocked to learn his vote for Franken was not counted.
"I know there's flaws in the election system, but I honestly never thought it would happen to me," said Dustin, another petitioner. "I have to do something about this. It may just be one voice, but if more people add their voices pretty soon you'll get a really loud screaming."
Republican voters soon may have their own legal filing. State GOP activists said Wednesday they will file a lawsuit insisting that no votes be counted twice, an issue Coleman's campaign claims flawed the Senate election result.
Bethany Dorobiala of Woodbury, a Minnesota College Republicans leader, said it is important voters know about the double-counted vote issue. Republicans started a Web site and want Minnesotans to sign on to their suit.
"Being a part of this lawsuit ... is an incredible thing to be a part of to really help to solidify and preserve the (voting) process," she said.
Franken's campaign says double counting may not have occurred.
The Supreme Court is not rushing a decision in another lawsuit. Franken filed a lawsuit with the court asking that Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie be ordered to sign an election certificate for him. They had refused a Franken request to sign the document that could allow him to be seated in the Senate.
Election results showed Franken gained 225 more votes than Coleman, the Democrat's attorneys argue, so he should be given a signed election certificate even as Coleman's lawsuit challenging the result is unresolved.
The Supreme Court ordered Franken and Coleman to submit written filings and scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 5.
That likely will occur as Coleman's challenge of the election results plays out. The Republican's campaign on Wednesday proposed that the three-judge panel overseeing the case begin a trial on Feb. 9 and start by examining how absentee ballots were handled.
Franken's campaign is expected to propose its own trial schedule today. The three-judge panel will decide how the case will proceed.
Voters whose ballots are in flux are upset by the time it will take to determine a winner.
"Why does it have to take so long?" asked Meranda Redepenning of Madison, whose husband is named in the Franken supporters' court petition. "It is sort of ridiculous."
Redepenning said her husband, Hubert, voted absentee but his ballot was not counted. She suspected that the problem related to his poor handwriting and signature, a problem caused by Parkinson's disease.
Meranda Redepenning said her 83-year-old husband agreed to be included in the petition.
"I'm sure he wants his vote counted," she said. "We wouldn't have gone through all this work of getting an absentee ballot."