Tuesday 25 November 2008
by: Kevin Duchschere, The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune
Al Franken's campaign is concerned that election officials are not looking for several hundred missing ballots. (Photo: Reuters)
A new wrinkle is surfacing today in the recount battle in Minnesota between incumbent US Sen. Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken - missing ballots.
The Franken campaign today said that it has learned of missing ballots totaling several hundred in various counties. Franken recount attorney Marc Elias said he's also bothered that counties that know they have missing ballots aren't bothering to look for them.
Elias declined to identify those counties but acknowledged that the Franken campaign is monitoring reports of several dozen missing ballots in Becker County.
Officials can determine they have missing ballots whenever they come up with fewer paper ballots than what the electronic Election Night vote total was for the U.S. Senate race.
In Crystal, officials there say they have found eight absentee ballots, still sealed in their security envelopes, that had not been counted on Nov. 4. The ballots, which were subsequently included in the city's recount, increased Democrat Franken's total by seven votes and Republican Coleman's by one. The envelopes were discovered Friday night among opened envelopes, a city spokeswoman said.
Also today, Elias says the Franken campaign believes its deficit in the recount has shrunk to 84 votes. Before the recount, Coleman led Franken by 215 votes out of about 2.9 million cast, a margin that has fluctuated over the past week.
Elias says that the smaller number is based on how election judges in the counties have ruled so far on challenged ballots. Those several thousand challenged ballots are awaiting final scrutiny by the State Canvassing Board next month.
As for rejected absentee ballots, Elias said the Franken campaign has received lists of those voters from all or part of 66 counties. That accounts for about 6,400 ballots, he said. On Wednesday, the Canvassing Board will meet to consider whether to allow any of those ballots to be counted.
While Elias said he expects most of the absentee ballots to be upheld as invalid, he thinks some will be allowed. He declined to estimate how many that might be.
Elias also expressed confidence in Franken ultimately defeating Coleman because two southern Minnesota counties with large student populations - Blue Earth and Winona - either have most or all of the recount to go yet. Franken won both of those counties on Election Night.
Star Tribune staff writer Bob von Sternberg contributed to this report.