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Senate recount trial: Franken picks up likely 24 votes

If you’re scoring at home, it sure looks like Al Franken’s U.S. Senate recount lead is now at 249, not 225. The election contest three-judge panel today granted a motion by Franken supporters to count some of their ballots.

If you’re scoring at home, it sure looks like Al Franken’s U.S. Senate recount lead is now at 249, not 225.

Franken led the U.S. Senate race after the statewide recount by 225 votes.

The election contest three-judge panel today granted a motion by 61 Franken supporters to count some of their ballots.

Twenty-four to be exact. And they’re Franken votes.  (Earlier in the day, it was reported as 25 additional votes. That was reported incorrectly.)

Meanwhile, the judges also hinted that they’re leaning towards opening at least one category of ballots previously rejected.

And Judges Elizabeth Hayden, Kurt Marben and Denise Reilly surely showed their hand on another matter: Voters’ affidavits are the strongest evidence if both campaigns want to add votes.

“I’m very pleased that 24 votes were accepted,” said Charles Nauen, the Minneapolis lawyer who brought the voters’ lawsuit.

Ben Ginsberg, Norm Coleman’s lawyer, said of the ruling, “I thought it was really encouraging.”

After all, the Coleman side is suing in this election contest to have many previously rejected absentee ballots examined and, eventually, counted.

But the ruling today suggests that voter affidavits — and not speculation on the witness stand by county election officials — might be the ticket to acceptance by the judges.

Ginsberg said the Coleman campaign would be getting affidavits from voters.

The foundation of Nauen’s lawsuit was the detailed affidavits from each of the voters, explaining why each believed his or her vote should be counted.

“Having reviewed all of the evidence provided by Petitioners in support of their motion, the Court determines that the Petitioners … have provided unrebutted evidence that their absentee ballots were legally cast and should be counted,” the three-judge panel wrote unanimously.

The other 37 petitioners need to provide more evidence to the judges if they want their votes counted. Nauen said he’d be analyzing the judges’ ruling to see what additional information the court needs to accept the 36 ballots.

The 24 accepted ballots will be opened by the secretary of state’s office at a time and date to be determined, the judges said.

But here’s the most interesting part of the decision … for you recount geeks out there: One of the 24 ballots to be counted is a ballot in which the voter registration card is in the internal secrecy envelope of her absentee ballot package.

This has become a recurring issue as Coleman has presented evidence. Some new voters mistakenly placed their registration cards in the same internal envelope as their ballots. They should have included the registration form in an outer envelope. If new voters placed their registration application in the secrecy ballot, their ballot was often rejected because election officials couldn’t tell if they, in fact, were registered.

Now, it seems, some ballots previously rejected ballots because of lack of registration may be opened.

Also, expect a flurry of more affidavits from both sides from other voters whose ballots seem to have been rejected wrongly.

Meanwhile, Dakota County elections official Kevin Boyle continued to testify this morning. He was questioned by Coleman lawyer Tony Trimble, who attempted to show the judges that some previously rejected absentee ballots from Dakota County should be counted. Boyle will be on the stand this afternoon, too.

Jay Weiner can be reached at jweiner [at] minnpost [dot] com.