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A three-judge panel in Minnesota's contested Senate election has denied Democrat Al Franken's motion to dismiss his opponent's recount lawsuit, clearing the path for the trial to start next week.

The judges rejected Franken's argument on Thursday that their review should be confined to determining if the recount was mathematically correct, saying the court has jurisdiction to determine whether votes were legally cast.

Republican Norm Coleman is suing over a recount that ended with Franken up by 225 votes. Coleman's lawsuit alleges that it's an artificial lead based on the double-counting of some ballots and other inconsistencies in some precincts.


The judges did not validate those allegations in refusing to dismiss the case, saying: "It is immaterial whether or not the plaintiff can prove the facts alleged."

Coleman's attorney, Ben Ginsberg, called the decision a "stinging defeat" for Franken.

"We look forward to the trial commencing on Monday," Franken's attorney, Marc Elias, said in a statement.

The judges denied a request by Coleman's lawyers to order counties to ship about 12,000 rejected absentee ballots to the court so that they could be quickly accessible once the court decides whether they should be counted. No explanation was given for the rejection.

Coleman on Thursday also asked the three judges to order inspectors into 86 Minnesota precincts where his lawyers believe there were irregularities in the vote count.

The inspectors would "go to those precincts where there are still questions and try to settle them," said Ginsberg. One inspector would represent Coleman, another Franken and the last would be neutral. Unsettled disputes would presumably be forwarded for consideration in the election trial.


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