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Stepping up the pressure on the state Canvassing Board to count disputed absentee ballots in the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Al Franken's campaign Wednesday released a video with seven tug-at-the-heart stories from Minnesotans whose votes the campaign said were improperly rejected.
The video, which was released on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBOad11LueE) and came two days before the board's Friday meeting on the issue, was immediately criticized by Republicans, who described it as "a new low" and another attempt to discredit local election officials.
In one scene, quadriplegic Mike Brickley of Bloomington is shown lying in bed -- with his head resting on a Minnesota Vikings pillow -- as he pleads with officials to count his vote. "I may be a quadriplegic," said Brickley, 46, as he stares into the camera and speaks in a halting voice, "...but we are still someone, and we deserve to have our votes counted."
Brickley, according to the campaign, had his absentee ballot rejected because he was not a registered voter -- the campaign said state records show he was registered -- and because his signature on his ballot envelope did not match the signature on his application for the absentee ballot. Brickley said he signed his ballot application by holding a pen in his mouth, and had his wife, who had recently suffered a stroke and is legally blind, sign the ballot on his behalf.
The video's release marked the latest attempt by Franken and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman to swing public opinion -- and, possibly, the state Canvassing Board -- in their favor as the monthlong recount heads toward more critical turning points, and as Franken remains behind in the official recount. On Friday, the board will review what to do with what are likely hundreds of absentee ballots that were improperly rejected.
The two campaigns on Wednesday again addressed one of the other major unsettled issues: How to count the votes in a Minneapolis precinct where election officials acknowledge they cannot find 133 ballots.
In a letter to Minneapolis' top election official, the Coleman campaign argued that only the precinct's recounted total should be given to the state Canvassing Board, even though it does not include the 133 missing votes, and results in a net loss of dozens of votes for Franken.
If Minneapolis submits the "conflicting" election night and recount totals, stated Fritz Knaak, Coleman's lead recount attorney, "we will request the [board] to follow the clear directives under Minnesota law and certify only the administrative recount results."
Franken's campaign, in a legal brief filed Wednesday with the board, said "well-established law and common sense dictate" the election night results are the "proper tally."
Franken officials, meanwhile, said the video was more evidence that all legally cast votes should be counted.
"It was upsetting," Burton Bolter, a 73-year-old Minnetonka resident, said of having his absentee ballot rejected. The campaign said Bolter, who was registered to vote, had his vote rejected because election officials mistakenly concluded he was not registered.
Bolter said he was first made aware that his vote was rejected when the Franken campaign contacted him last week. "We had no idea -- none," said Bolter, who said he voted by absentee ballot because he was scheduled to have open-heart surgery.
Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388