ST. PAUL, Minn. — It's been more than two months since the U.S. Senate election that pitted Democrat Al Franken against incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, but the seat still sits empty.
Their contest enters a new phase today when a panel of three judges begins hearing Coleman's lawsuit over a recount that left him out in the cold. Coleman argues that ballot irregularities and improperly rejected absentees are the reasons Franken holds a narrow lead.
Legal experts say Coleman faces the bigger challenge. Franken has a state-declared 225-vote lead, giving Coleman two hills to climb.
First, his lawyers have to produce proof of the irregularities and inconsistencies that they're alleging riddled the vote tally.
Then, if they meet that burden of proof, Coleman must make up enough votes to overtake Franken. Even Coleman's lawyers acknowledge that if the alleged mistakes are corrected, Franken also would gain some votes.
No one on either side is willing to predict how long the trial might last.