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Recount Day 3: Meeker ballot challenge total draws attention; Lac qui Parle County begins its recount; Stearns County enters third day of recount

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Update 4 p.m.

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Minnesota's U.S. Senate Recount today has moved into its third day in west central Minnesota. Lac qui Parle started its recount today, Stearns County recount is in its third day and Meeker County reported a double-digit ballot challenge total.

The following west central Minnesota counties have completed their recounts: Pope, Redwood Falls, Renville, Stevens, Swift and Yellow Medicine.

Update 3:30 p.m.

Meeker County Auditor Barbara Loch said Friday afternoon that some of the 58 challenged ballots during the county's U.S. Senate recount might have been questionable or frivolous, but she "was always reminded it wasn't my position to challenge" the challenges of recount observers.

"We had a very tense room all day," Loch said.

The county auditor said she wished she had personally documented the challenges she thought were legitimate, "but the tension in the room just didn't allow certain things to be thought through at the moment."

Loch said challenges during Meeker County's recount varied from stray pen markings and the use of red pen on the ballot to the insufficient fill-in of a voting oval and a small tear in one paper ballot.

Some challenges by the recount observers, Loch said, might have been excessive "however, I was always reminded that it wasn't my position to challenge their challenge."

Loch said there were also challenged ballots where the voter crossed out an original voting oval or wrote the word 'no' beside it before filling in the other candidate's oval.

Update 2 p.m.

Franken reviews own ballot holds, asks same of foe

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The legal chief for Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken says the campaign will spend the weekend reviewing its ballot challenges to see if any should be withdrawn.

Marc Elias is calling on the campaign of Republican Senator Norm Coleman to do the same after two days of the high-stakes recount.

The stack of disputed ballots headed for a state board's review is rising sharply with each day and now tops 700.

Included in the disputed pile are ballots where the challenges could be considered dubious.

Elias says there have been no formal discussions with the Coleman campaign about steps that could be taken to reduce the pile of disputed ballots that will go to the state Canvassing Board for rulings.

Coleman's advisers were due to address concerns over challenged ballots at a news conference later Friday.

Update 10:30 a.m.

OLIVIA -- The team for Al Franken challenged two votes for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman during the Renville County recount Thursday at the County Office Building in Olivia.

The Coleman team did not challenge any Franken votes.

Coleman's vote total remained unchanged from the start to the end of the recount with 3,274 votes, said County Auditor Larry Jacobs.

Franken's totaled increased by one vote from 2,907 to 2,908 after judges ruled the voter in tended to cast the ballot for Franken using a check mark rather than filling in the oval.

"The machine couldn't see it. But it was obvious this particular person wanted to cast a vote for Franken and that's what we did in the recount,'' said Jacobs.

Update 10 a.m.

The Stearns County recount in the U.S. Senate race has now entered its third day. At the completion of Tuesday, Stearns County had recounted 48.04% (49 of 102)of its precincts.

As of 8 p.m. Thursday, Stearns County was reporting the following:

Stearns County - reported by Secretary of State

With 48.04% (49 of 102)of precincts reporting

Ballot type Ballots

NOV. 4 - Number of Ballots for Coleman 20,070

NOV. 4 - Number of Ballots for Franken 14,527

RECOUNT - Number of Ballots for Coleman 20,065

RECOUNT - Number of Ballots for Franken 14,525

RECOUNT - Other 9,341

Ballot challenges by Franken 6

Ballot challenges by Coleman 5

The following west central Minnesota counties have completed their recounts:

Big Stone, Chippewa, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Pope, Redwood Falls, Renville, Yellow Medicine, Pope, Swift and Yellow Medicine.

The state recount of ballots between incumbent Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken is expected to last into December.

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