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Alexandria voter part of Senate recount saga

ALEXANDRIA - When Ole Nyland of Alexandria voted last fall, he did what he's been doing for the last three or four elections.

He got an absentee ballot and visited his wife, Eleanor, at Knute Nelson nursing home. Together, they went through their ballots and decided who to vote for.

Because Ole can't see very well, Eleanor marked his ballot for him. "She's pretty fussy about the ballot - she makes sure the circles are all filled in," Ole said.

Then they put the completed ballots in the mail, hoping their candidates would win and thinking that would be the end of that.

Now, four months later, Ole Nyland's ballot is among 400 rejected and disputed absentee ballots that a panel of three judges has ordered to be examined and possibly counted as part of the contested U.S. Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken.

A list of the voters' names on the 400 ballots was made public and Ole Nyland is the only one from Douglas County.

When the Echo Press contacted Ole on Wednesday and told him his ballot is now part of the embattled recount process, he was stunned. He was even more shocked to learn that his ballot hasn't been counted - at least not yet.

"You're kidding me!" he said. "Boy, I tell you I'd really be interested in why there is a dispute with it [his ballot]...I thought we did everything right."

As it turned out, Ole's ballot was rejected because it didn't contain a valid proof of his residence, according to Vicki Doehling, Douglas County elections administrator.

The ballot didn't contain a voter registration card, as it should, and even though the county later received the card in the mail, it still didn't contain a driver's license number or other identification to verify his address or status as a registered voter.

Doehling, as requested by the recount judges, mailed the rejected ballot to the secretary of state's office on Wednesday.

"For the voter's sake, I hope it gets counted," Doehling said. "I think our office acted properly in rejecting the ballot but it's now in the hands of the court."

The judges are expected to go through the ballots - but not necessarily all of them - next week in the Supreme Court room at the Minnesota Judicial Center in St. Paul. Fewer than 400 of the ballots may be counted if some are deemed ineligible upon further examination.

About half of the absentee ballots came from Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis counties, which heavily supported Franken in the election.

Coleman's lawyers were disappointed with the judges' decision. They wanted more ballots to be considered, which would increase the chance of overcoming Franken's 225-vote lead in the recount.

Coleman's lawyers have vowed to take the matter to the Minnesota Supreme Court. (See related story for more on the recount process.)

At this point, no one knows what will become of Ole's ballot, although he has a strong opinion about what the outcome should be.

"If there is a dispute, I would tell them who I voted for," he said. "I voted for Franken."