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Coleman appeals election

ST. PAUL - Norm Coleman is appealing to the state's highest court to reverse his U.S. Senate election loss.

Attorneys for the former Republican senator said this afternoon they are filing a notice of appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, as Coleman earlier said would occur. Coleman claims the disparate ways absentee ballots were handled by local election officials in the Nov. 4 election violated the U.S. Constitution, and that the problem was not corrected during a recent election trial.

"We do believe that the district court got it wrong on the law," Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said today. "Their decision disenfranchises many Minnesotans."

Coleman is seeking to overturn the ruling last week of a special three-judge panel which said Democrat Al Franken won Minnesota's 2008 U.S. Senate race by 312 votes out of more than 2.9 million votes cast.

An appeal is part of the state election contest process. The formal notice allows the Supreme Court to set a timeline for the appeals process.

The high court request comes more than five months after the election. Coleman entered a statewide recount last November leading Franken by 215 votes. The recount ended with Franken on top by 225 votes.

Coleman filed an election lawsuit in January, prompting a seven-week trial. That trial concluded last month and the three-judge panel issued its ruling last week after allowing 351 previously uncounted absentee ballots to be included in the tally.

Even before the trial ended, Coleman was considering an appeal because he said the judges had made decisions about absentee ballots that violated the Constitution's equal-protection clause.

In a recent interview, Coleman said the appeal is an "uphill challenge," but said he believed his arguments are backed by the Constitution.

"We think we've got a legitimate constitutional argument and believe strongly there are thousands of Minnesotans whose votes should be counted," he told Forum Communications.

Among Coleman's complaints is that similar absentee ballots were treated differently in different counties - some were counted, others rejected - and that the lack of a statewide standard violates the Constitution's mandate that states cannot deny any person "equal protection of the laws."

The three-judge panel dismissed that argument, writing last week that errors committed in an election do not necessarily rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

Franken has sought an election certificate since he was named the recount winner in January, but the Supreme Court previously ruled that a winner is not entitled an election certificate until after the state election contest process.

Franken said last week that he did not want Coleman to appeal, but acknowledged that an appeal was likely.

While he still is without an election certificate, Franken earlier today announced his first Senate hire.