Minnesota Recount Begins Today
Officials today began a recount in the contentious Minnesota Senate race between Democratic challenger Al Franken and incumbent Republican Norm Coleman.
Before the recount, Coleman led Franken by 215 votes, less than 0.5 percent, triggering an automatic recount under Minnesota law.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said that county election officials must finish the manual recount of more than 2.9 million ballots by Dec. 5. After officials in the state's 87 counties go through the ballots, disputed ballots will go to St. Paul, where the five-member State Canvassing Board will make the final call. The canvassing board will meet Dec. 16 with the goal of finishing by Dec. 19.
During the recount, officials visually inspect each ballot, then sort them into piles for each candidate. Representatives from the campaigns have the opportunity to challenge a ballot if they believe it has been counted for the wrong candidate or wrongly thrown out. Officials will seal challenged ballots into envelopes and send them to the canvassing board for further inspection.
Minnesota uses optical scan ballots, so there will be no infamous "hanging chads," as there were in the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida.
Elections officials said they would count around 60,000 ballots a day.
Ritchie has created a detailed list of procedures for the recount.
Among the guidelines:
The recounts must be held at a public location which must provide a "public viewing area."
Candidates may each have one representative at counting tables to challenge ballots.
Officials cannot take lunch breaks in the middle of sorting.
Ritchie estimated that the recount would cost Minnesota taxpayers $86,000.
Both candidates have filed lawsuits. Most recently, Franken filed a suit asking the election board to examine rejected absentee ballots.
The outcome of the recount could have huge implications for the makeup of the Senate. After the defeat of Sen. Ted Stevens (R) yesterday, Senate Democrats are only two seats away from a filibuster-proof majority. In Georgia, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) faces a Dec. 2 runoff against former state representative Jim Martin. Chambliss drew more votes but his share did not reach 50 percent, as required by state law.
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