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Meanwhile in Minnesota........


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Here is the latest article on the recount mess in Minn.

I doubt the Senate steps in now that it wouldnt make 60. No reason for Reid to get into a new term pissing off the moderate GOPers he might need to pass some things.


Unless Minnesota's U.S. Senate campaigns aggressively withdraw some of the ballots they've challenged during the 3-week-old recount, it could take more than a month for a state board to judge them.

As of Wednesday, 6,326 ballots were taken off the piles of recounted votes after observers for Democrat Al Franken or Republican Sen. Norm Coleman questioned the voters' intent or the validity of the votes. A State Canvassing Board, made up of two county and two Supreme Court judges and the secretary of state, will determine how those ballots should be counted later this month.

The Franken campaign Wednesday made a move to reduce the size of that challenged stack. It told the secretary of state's office that the campaign wanted to withdraw 633 of its more than 3,000 ballot challenges.

All counties are expected to finish sifting through ballots by Friday.

As of Wednesday night, when about 98 percent of ballots were counted, Coleman led Franken by 316 votes, when comparing the Election Day totals to the recounted totals.

That vote lead doesn't include any of the challenged ballots.

After "painstaking" examination of some of the challenged ballots, folks at Franken headquarters decided voter intent was clear, and the 633 ballots were valid.

The campaign likely will remove more ballots from those the canvassing board will have to plow through.

"This is as far as we have gotten in this process," said Franken recount attorney Marc Elias.





campaigns have claimed since the recount started Nov. 19 that their opponents were challenging ballots in order to inflate the vote counts. Elias claimed Wednesday that if the challenges were counted as they eventually will be, Franken would actually be leading by 22 votes in the race.

Last week, Coleman recount attorney Fritz Knaak asked the Franken campaign for a détente in the "game of ballot challenge one-upmanship" but hasn't yet withdrawn any challenges levied by the Coleman campaign.


A recount worker searchs for the ten correct ballot boxes on her list, which were then opened up and looked into for uncounted ballots in the U.S. Senate recount, at the Minneapolis recount site on Wednesday, December 3, 2008. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)said he doesn't want to start withdrawing challenges until the recount is complete but said the campaign would do so then. He called the Franken campaign's challenge withdrawal a "fine gesture."

The withdrawal has some practical impact.

On Dec. 16, the canvassing board will meet to judge the disposition of the challenged ballots. The larger the stack of challenges, the longer the process will take.

If the number of challenges remains about 6,300 ballots and each ballot takes about three minutes to judge, it could take 315 hours, or about 40 days worth of eight-hour days, to deal with all of them.

If that timeline holds, it would take the canvassing board past Jan. 6, the date the new senator is supposed to be sworn in.


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More "missing" ballots.


The drama, the suspense, the hard work, the long hours, the hyperbolic rhetoric, and now — on what otherwise would have been the final day of the largest hand recount in Minnesota history — it comes down to this:

One plain, mostly blank white envelope, measuring 8 1/2-by-17 inches. Distinctive markings: "1 of 5."

Contents: 133 ballots.

Whereabouts: Unknown.

Importance: Possibly the difference in the U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken.

Like cops issuing an AMBER alert, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, city Elections Director Cindy Reichert and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann called a news conference Thursday to announce they were on the hunt for the envelope, which Reichert described as "missing."

By the end of today, the recount is expected to be finished everywhere else, in accordance with a state-imposed deadline. Gelbmann said Minneapolis has been granted an indefinite extension to find the ballots.

They have no explanation for why it's missing, but based on a preliminary investigation, they believe it's somewhere in the city's 8,000-square-foot elections warehouse on Harding Street in Northeast Minneapolis.

The conclusion the ballots are likely "missing" is a victory for Franken. Earlier Thursday, his lead recount attorney, Marc Elias, issued a public and stern message: "Find the ballots. ... The outcome of this election might be at stake."

Meanwhile, Coleman's




campaign cried foul.

"We do not know that there are any ballots missing, and it is premature and simply irresponsible to suggest that they are," attorney Fritz Knaak said in a statement. Knaak also complained that Coleman's campaign hadn't been consulted before the news conference and implied the Democratic affiliation of Rybak, many city officials and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie could be a problem. "It is critical that there be no effort to make this matter a partisan issue," Knaak said.

Without the ballots, Coleman would gain 36 votes, compared with the Election Night tally. Elias said internal numbers show Franken ahead in the recount by 10, but that figure does not include numbers from the precinct with the missing ballots, which is a Franken stronghold.

Unofficial pre-recount results showed Coleman winning by 215. Based on official recount numbers, Coleman leads by 205 votes. But that gap is becoming less and less reliable. It doesn't take into account the 6,508 ballots challenged by each campaign, nor does it include the 1,283 challenges withdrawn by both campaigns. It also doesn't include any ballots from Minneapolis Ward 3, Precinct 1, the origin of the missing envelope.

The polling place for that precinct was University Lutheran Church of Hope, 601 13th Ave. S.E., in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. The precinct, populated by a large number of University of Minnesota students, was the site of an Election Day snafu when some students who lived at a housing co-op were initially turned away from polls because building management gave them an insufficient proof-of-residency statement.

Voter-protection advocates monitored the precinct but noted nothing unusual aside from lines that forced students to wait as much as an hour to vote.

"Virtually all the reports I got — in fact, all the reports — were positive with respect to process," said Dan Evans, who monitored the precinct for the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.

The Rev. Craig Shirley said the polling place was in the church's fellowship hall. He described it as an open, uncluttered space where it would be hard to lose a ballot envelope. But at the request of the city, he searched the area. "We looked and haven't located an envelope," Shirley said.

The polling-place roster showed 2,029 registered voters either signed in or had their absentee ballots accepted. The tape on the ballot-counting machine showed 2,028 ballots had been read. That discrepancy of one vote, Reichert said, is "not uncommon," as occasionally a voter will sign in but leave without voting, often out of impatience over long lines.

During the recount, 1,896 ballots appeared — 133 fewer than on Election Day. On Wednesday, Reichert initially attributed the discrepancy to election workers feeding some ballots through machines twice. But after checking the roster and realizing there should be close to 2,029 ballots, she retracted that theory. On Thursday she said, "We have no explanation." She said foul play was "highly unlikely," but "we're not ruling anything out."

To trace the trail of the envelope, Reichert said investigators interviewed the chief election judge at the polling place, a man she described as "very experienced."

At 12:15 a.m., after all the ballots had been fed through vote-counting machines, he and an assistant election judge drove sealed envelopes containing ballots directly to the warehouse, a short distance away, Reichert said. His precise memory of what transpired was "a little fuzzy," but she said the election judge recalled a standard double-check with the worker who accepted the ballots at the warehouse.

That double-check holds the key to believing a single envelope is missing, Reichert said.

Currently, five ballot envelopes are accounted for. One is a different color and contains write-ins. The other four are labeled "2 of 5," 3 of 5," "4 of 5" and "5 of 5."

There is no "1 of 5."

"At this point, we believe it's missing," she said. She suspects it is "in some odd place in our warehouse."

Gelbmann, who called the situation "extraordinary," said he would be stationed in Minneapolis to serve as a witness throughout the hunt. In addition, Reichert said, any time workers enter secure areas within the warehouse, they will contact both campaigns to monitor their activities.

Gelbmann said if the ballots aren't found by Dec. 16, when the state Canvassing Board meets to scrutinize challenged ballots, the panel will be given a full report of the precinct. He said the panel could decide to include only the ballots available or the results from Election Night.

Aside from that, the only other place expected to be counting ballots for much of today is Wright County, which began its recount Monday.

In other developments, Coleman withdrew 650 ballot challenges Thursday, a day after Franken withdrew 633.

Also, reports filed by the campaigns show they raised nearly $4 million in the three weeks following Election Day.

Coleman reported raising $1.8 million. Franken pulled in $2.1 million through his campaign fund and a special recount account. Coleman's spending from Nov. 5 to Nov. 24 was $425,000. Franken spent about $740,000 over the same span.

Both men had money in reserve. Coleman finished the period with $2.1 million in the bank; Franken has just over $2 million.

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dude should give it up. He's not going to win. Time to conceed....


It currently is a 300 margin with over 3000 ballots that need to be reviewed and 2% still need to be re-counted.

Who do you feel is so far ahead that it's over and who should concede?

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