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College student wants vote counted in Senate race

North Dakota State University student Peter DeMuth, who is from a western Minneapolis suburb, testified in the U.S. Senate election trial that his absentee ballot was not counted. A Norm Coleman supporter, DeMuth voted absentee because he was going to school at the Fargo university and would not be home for the Nov. 4 election (Scott Wente/St. Paul Bureau)

ST. PAUL - Peter DeMuth said he drove from Fargo to St. Paul on Thursday for one reason.

"Because I want my vote counted," the North Dakota State University student said while testifying in the U.S. Senate election trial.

DeMuth, 23, was called as a witness by Norm Coleman's campaign because his absentee ballot was not counted in the Nov. 4 election or during the Senate recount. He is registered to vote in Plymouth, a Minneapolis suburb.

DeMuth was one of two voters the campaign used Thursday, the trial's fourth day, as it tries to convince three judges hearing the lawsuit to include uncounted rejected absentee ballots in the tally.

The statewide recount showed Democrat Al Franken gained 225 more votes than Coleman, who is challenging that election result.

DeMuth's absentee ballot envelope was marked rejected because of a signature problem. He signed his ballot envelope, but had put only his initials on his absentee ballot application.

State law says those signatures must match for the ballot to be counted.

In his testimony, DeMuth told Coleman attorney Jim Langdon that he did not know why his ballot was rejected, nor did Hennepin County election officials notify him that his vote would not be counted. He later was told by the Minnesota Republican Party that his vote was rejected.

DeMuth said he initialed the application because he completed it on a computer to avoid paying to make a copy of the application on a university printer.

Franken attorney Kevin Hamilton tried to suggest that DeMuth could have printed the application and signed his full name.

"It costs money to print," DeMuth responded.

Outside the St. Paul courtroom, DeMuth said the problem could have been avoided if election officials compared the signature on his absentee ballot envelope to the signature on his voter registration card. Still, he said he would do things differently in the future.

"Next time, I'll go pay the money to have it printed," he said of the application.

DeMuth, a Coleman supporter, said he hopes his vote gets counted before the Senate election is settled.

"I think if we're going to go through with the recount, we might as well get every vote and make sure that they get counted," he said.

Then he left the Minnesota Judicial Center to drive back to college.