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Senate recount update: Recounts completed in city of Willmar and Kandiyohi and Chippewa counties

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Update 5:20 p.m.

Minnesota's U.S. Senate race recount continues in west central Minnesota and across the state. Recounts today concluded in the city of Willmar and Kandiyohi County and is still continuing in Chippewa County. A few ballots have been challenged and both candidates vote totals changed slightly.

Update 5:15 p.m.

Chippewa County has completed its U.S. Senate Recount today. The vote total for Sen. Norm Coleman decreased 1 vote to 2,418, from the election day total of 2,419. Al Franken's vote total did not change, remaining at 2,418.

In Chippewa County, two ballots were challenged by the Coleman campaign and three ballots were challenged by the Franken campaign. Those five votes will be forwarded to the Minnesota Canvassing Board for review.

Update 4:45 p.m.

The ballot tally went up and down for Sen. Norm Coleman during a recount Tuesday of 13,000 ballots in Kandiyohi County. In the end, Coleman ended up with a net gain of zero. His DFL challenger, Al Franken picked up two votes when compared with the election night tabulations.

There were a total of five challenged ballots - including three cast for Coleman and two cast for Franken.

The three teams of sorters and counters finished around 3:45 p.m., well ahead of schedule.

Kandiyohi County Auditor Sam Modderman said the efficiency of the crew was "beyond his expectations."

Kandiyohi County finished recounting their 13,000 ballots around 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday

Update 4:05 p.m.

WILLMAR -- Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman lost two votes and Democratic challenger Al Franken lost one vote in Wednesday's recount of ballots cast by Willmar voters in the Nov. 4 general election.

Coleman's vote total in the city's four wards decreased from 3,917 to 3,915. Franken's vote to-tal in the four wards declined from 3,414 to 3,413.

Observers for the Franken campaign challenged three Coleman ballots and observers for the Coleman campaign challenged one Franken ballot.

The recount began at 9 a.m. in the second floor conference room at Willmar City Offices and ended at 3:30 p.m. The ballots were counted by three teams of three judges in each team, and the recount was observed by volunteers for the Democratic and Republican parties.

City Clerk Kevin Halliday said the recount went smoothly.

Update 1:05 p.m.

WILLMAR - By midday, there were two challenged ballots and few discrepancies in the ballot counts at the Kandiyohi County office building where three teams worked to recount about 13,000 ballots that were cast for U.S. Senate candidates.

Representatives from the Al Franken campaign challenged two ballots.

In both cases the ovals were filled in for Sen. Norm Coleman, but the voters had written words elsewhere on the ballot, including the word "God" with several exclamation marks in the Senate race box.

The other ballot had words written in the presidential candidate area.

The Franken representatives claimed those identifying marks made both ballots invalid.

Copies were made of the challenged ballots and the originals will be forwarded to the Secretary of State's office.

The recount is showing that the machines, and the humans doing the recounting, are not perfect.

The vote changed in five precincts compared with the original votes counted, with votes going up or down for Coleman. The end result was no net difference.

Update Noon

WILLMAR -- Two ballots had been challenged as the recount began this morning of ballots cast by Willmar voters in the U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democrat challenger Al Franken.

By 11 a.m., election judges had completed the recount of 1,925 ballots cast in Ward 1 and the recount of 1,853 ballots cast in Ward 3.

In Ward 1, Precinct 2, judges ruled that voter intent was not clear when a voter placed an X alongside ballot ovals for Coleman and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley.

City Clerk Kevin Halliday said that the voting machine had counted the challenged ballot as a vote for Coleman.

Coleman volunteer Danny O'Driscoll of Maryland challenged the judges' ruling on this ballot. He said the vote was not a stray vote, but was a vote for Coleman.

In Ward 3, Precinct 3, a voter voted the Democratic ticket for president, senator and representative, but placed Xs over other portions of the ballot rather than fill in the ovals. The judges ruled that the Xs invalidated the ballot.

Franken volunteer Brian Fahey challenged the ruling, saying the ballot was not invalid but was clearly marked for Franken.

Halliday said the machine counted the ballot as a vote for Franken.

Halliday said the State Canvassing Board will determine the intent of the challenged ballots.

The city ballots are being counted by three teams of judges with three judges on each team. Each team is being observed by a Republican and Democratic party representative who are seated at the table with the judges. The party representatives are allowed to view but not touch the ballots.

In addition, volunteers for Coleman and Franken are walking around the upstairs conference room at the Willmar City Offices, watching the recount.

The judges will resume the recount after an 11 a.m. lunch break.

Willmar voters cast 3,917 votes for Coleman and 3,414 votes for Franken in the Nov. 4 general election.

Halliday said he did not expect the city to have many challenged ballots.

Update 11:30 a.m.

MONTEVIDEO -- By late morning, Chippewa County had found only one disputed ballot in its recount. One ballot had been marked for two candidates in the Senate race, and a Franken observer requested it be forwarded to the state Canvassing Board.

With 15 of 23 precincts counted, the effort had found no differences from election night totals.

County Auditor Jon Clausen said he did not expect the recount to be completed today, as ballots for some of the largest precincts had yet to be recounted.

The atmosphere in the county commissioners boardroom was genial.

In one precinct, the first votes off the stack of ballots were all for Coleman. When the first Franken vote came up, a Coleman campaign volunteer commented to her counterpart, "Were you afraid there wouldn't be any?" Everyone laughed.

Update 11 a.m.

WILLMAR -- U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman has picked up two votes in Kandiyohi County. During the recount under way in the lower level of the downtown county building, Coleman picked up an additional vote in Holland Township and one in the city of Raymond.

Those two extra votes were discovered and counted by one of three teams that are sorting, piling and counting ballots for Coleman and DFL challenger Al Franken.

There have been no challenged ballots so far.

Update 10:15 a.m.

WILLMAR -- Judges in Willmar finished the recount in Ward 1 by 10 a.m. this morning.

Out of 1,925 ballots cast in Willmar's Ward 1, there was only one challenged ballot.

The voter on the challenged ballot marked a big X between the ballot circles for candidates Dean Barkley and Norm Coleman. The city recount judges ruled that there was not clear voter intent.

City Clerk Kevin Halliday said that the voting machine had counted the challenged ballot as a vote for Coleman.

The Coleman volunteer Danny O'Driscoll of Maryland challenged the ruling on this ballot. He said the vote was not a stray vote, but was a vote for Coleman.

Halliday said he did not expect many problem ballots in today's recount.

The city of Willmar has three tables recounting ballots. Each table has three city judges plus observers from the Coleman and Franken campaigns watching the recount.

Update 9:15 a.m.

MONTEVIDEO -- After counting five rural precincts in the first hour, Chippewa County recount workers found no changes in the vote totals and had no challenged ballots.

County Auditor Jon Clausen and the observers said they did not expect that perfect record to continue through the day.

Some of the biggest precincts in the county were yet to be recounted, including Montevideo Precinct 1 with 1,400 voters. Many of the rural precincts in the county had fewer than 100 ballots to recount.

Clausen went over the ground rules with observers from the Coleman and Franken campaigns before the recount began. Only county employees were allowed to touch the ballots. Employees sit at a table in the commissioners boardroom with one observer from each campaign sitting on either side. A handful of other observers huddle behind them.

Coleman ballots were piled on the right and Franken ballots were piled on the left at Clausen's suggestion.

Update 8:15 a.m.

The U.S. Senate recount has started in west central Minnesota as Chippewa County started its recount process at 8 a.m.

Willmar and Kandiyohi County are scheduled to begin their recount process at 9 a.m. Meeker, Renville, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties will hold their recount on Thursday and Lac qui Parle County on Friday.