- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)

A special court Tuesday ordered further review of just 400 absentee ballots in the Minnesota Senate race, dealing a crippling blow to Republican Norm Coleman’s legal challenge against Democrat Al Franken’s lead.

Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said the small amount of remaining ballots made it difficult for Mr. Coleman, who had asked to include 1,360 ballots, to erase Mr. Franken’s 225-vote lead. Within two hours of the ruling, Mr. Ginsberg warned of an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing that the panel’s ruling tolerated differing standards from county to county between the general election and the recount.

“You never give up hope, but it becomes a much longer shot,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “It’s still a mathematical possibility, but it’s probably akin to you winning your NCAA bracket pool at this point.”

The breakdown of the unopened absentee ballots is unknown, but it appears to favor Mr. Franken. His team had submitted almost 150 of the ballots, while Mr. Coleman offered 125. Fifty other ballots had been sought by both, and the rest didn’t appear on either candidate’s list.

An attorney for Mr. Franken, a former “Saturday Night Live” comic, said he was not worried about others trying to stop Mr. Franken from being seated after appeals were exhausted.

“We’re going to take this one step at a time,” attorney Marc Elias said. “What matters is what happens in the court in Minnesota and then in the Senate itself.”

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