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Dems at it agin....

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota's Democratic Party is suing the Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer over her office's handling of the substitution of deceased Sen. Paul Wellstone's name on election ballots.

First reported by Fox News, former Vice President Walter Mondale is to announce on Wednesday that he will launch a campaign to replace Wellstone, who died in a plane crash last Friday.

Under the state's current plan, people who have already mailed in their ballots and want to change their vote will have to go to a local election office and get a new ballot, something Democrats argue is not possible for many absentee voters.

"It's not the way we're supposed to be doing things in Minnesota. We don't want to be another Florida," said state Democratic Party attorney Alan Weinblatt.

The lawsuit seeks a court order allowing voters to have a new absentee ballot mailed to them promptly if they want to make a change.

"When the DFL [Democratic-Farmer-Labor] Party submits the name for filing, which we expect on Thursday, to fill the vacancy, a nomination, only at that time do we have the authority to put the name on that ballot," Kiffmeyer said.

Democrats would prefer that absentee votes for Wellstone be automatically transferred to Mondale, contradicting the plan created by Kiffmeyer, a Republican, and Attorney General Mike Hatch, a Democrat.

"We can't assume that just because Paul Wellstone's name is here now that [voters] automatically want to transfer to whoever the new nominee is. We can't assume that. We can't read those minds," Kiffmeyer said.

That bothers the usually talkative independent Gov. Jesse Ventura. Through his aides, Ventura said the only fair thing to do is to count the absentee votes for Mondale. If not, he fears that more lawsuits will delay certification of the election.

Ventura plans to appoint someone to fill out Wellstone's term, which expires in January. Officials say that he is leaning toward a Democrat who does not want the job permanently, but is willing to fill in for a few months.

At least one county is breaking ranks with the state plan. Officials in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul, say they will mail a new ballot to those who ask.

"We're not going to question someone as to why their ballot is spoiled," said Darwin Lookingbill, director of the county attorney's civil division. "If they call we're going to send them another ballot."

To accommodate the Mondale substitution at the polls a special supplemental ballot will be handed out covering just the U.S. Senate race.

Weinblatt adds that the extra ballot is confusing.

"Because of the shortness of time, and because of the confusion that has developed over the weekend, I am asking that ballot instructions be put on the ballot in English, in Spanish, in Hmong and in Russian," Weinblatt said.

The legal battle will play out in front of Minnesota's Supreme Court on Oct. 31, in what is expected to be the first round in what could be several fights likely to spill over after Election Day.

Many say they don't want a situation similar to Florida in 2000, where the presidential election was left undecided for 36 days.

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