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Coleman side files motion to halt some handling of 933 votes

In a surprise and dramatic move, the Norm Coleman legal team today asked the three-judge panel in the election contest trial to block Secretary of State Mark Ritchie from redacting some information on the 933 absentee ballots that were counted by the State Canvassing Board on Jan. 3.

Coleman lawyer Ben Ginsberg told reporters it isn’t an attempt to “uncount” any of the votes. He downplayed its significance.

But a hearing on the TRO issue could be scheduled for today.

Here’s what it could mean, if Judges Elizabeth Hayden, Kurt Marben and Denise Reilly agree with the Coleman side . . . could.

First, to review.

When the 933 votes were counted by the canvassing board, Ritchie staff marked the outer envelopes and the ballots that came out of them.

The secretary of state’s staff, according to a recent report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, was about to redact those identifying numbers for the envelopes and ballots. That way, there would no way to link the voters to the votes when the ballots are returned to their respective precincts.

It’s a voter privacy thing.

BUT, if and when this information is redacted, there is no way to know why those absentee ballots were originally rejected by local election officials.

Coleman’s lawyers have been arguing in recent days that the judges’ Feb. 13 ruling, eliminating certain categories of ballots, has rendered previously counted votes “illegal.”

That is, some ballot categories now not being allowed to be examined were allowed in the 933 count.

By preserving the evidence of the 933, it could – theoretically — allow some votes to be reconsidered. Emphasize COULD.

First, both sides and the judges stipulated – agreed to – the fact weeks ago that the 933 do count and will continue to count.

Second, the judges were firm in their ruling of Feb. 13 on which categories were lawful.

Third, the judges said in a recent opinion it’s “irrelevant” whether there were irregularities in county standards before the election contest began.

Still, it’s a curious move.

Stay tuned.

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