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Legal Battle Continues Over Minnesota Senate Race

More than 4 months after the election, the Minnesota Senate race between Republican Norm Colman and Democrat Al Franken is still undecided, despite a lengthy recount and trial. Two journalists discuss the race's details and whether a decision may be forthcoming.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    One hundred and twenty-seven days after the people of Minnesota cast their votes for U.S. Senate, the seat remains empty. Republican Norm Coleman and his Democratic opponent, former comedian Al Franken, each insists he is the winner. After a lengthy recount and a seven-week trial, neither side appears ready to yield.

    Why is it taking so long? And what does it mean for the Senate? For that, we're joined by Amy Walter, editor-in-chief of the Hotline, National Journal's political daily, and veteran Minnesota political writer Eric Black, who blogs for MinnPost.com.

    Welcome to you both.

    AMY WALTER, editor-in-chief, The Hotline: Thank you.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Eric Black, what is happening? What's taking so long?

  • ERIC BLACK, MinnPost.com:

    Well, we have a process laid out in Minnesota law that has many steps in it. We're going through those steps. The trial, which is coming to a close now, probably will end next week, is what we call the election contest, comes after the recount. And as long as it's close enough to argue about, they're still arguing.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    You say close enough. How many votes are we talking about that separate these two candidates after all this time?

  • ERIC BLACK:

    Well, at the end of the recount phase, Al Franken had a lead of 225 votes. During this long trial, he appears to have gained some ground, probably added to his lead, but that's sort of an unofficial tally based on votes that the judges seem ready to count.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So that…

  • ERIC BLACK:

    I think the current estimate is that he probably has a lead of about 300 going into the last big phase, when the judges will decide how many more ballots they'll look at and count.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So that's what the trial is about, which ballots they're willing to count?

  • ERIC BLACK:

    Yes. Most of the trial has revolved around the issue of absentee ballots. Quite a few absentee ballots were rejected on Election Day because of perceived flaws in the voters' applications for their absentee ballots. And most of the argument is about, which of those ballots actually should be opened and counted?

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