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Recount's second day: YM may finish today; Ballots challenged in Meeker; Swift Count recount starts over after conflict

Minnesota's U.S. Senate debate today moved into its second day in west central Minnesota. Meeker, Renville Swift and Yellow Medicine counties have all started their recounts.

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

Update 3 p.m.

GRANITE FALLS -- The voter recount started Thursday morning in Yellow Medicine County could be completed in one day, instead of the two days it was originally scheduled.

Auditor/Treasurer Lois Bonde said that a full morning of counting led to only a couple of changes, and that the counting was going faster than she had anticipated.

She said she had hopes of seeing the recount completed by the end of the day. "It looks pretty good,'' she said.

The county has 31 precincts. The county team from the auditor/treasurer's office is overseeing a hand count of every ballot from the precincts, which includes nine municipalities and 21 townships.

Unofficial results from election night in Yellow Medicine County showed Republican Norm Coleman led with 2,311 votes to DFL candidate Al Franken's 2,171 votes. Independent party candidate Dean Barkley had 1,028 votes.

Update 1 p.m.

LITCHFIELD - The U.S. Senate recount in Meeker County reported a number of ballot challenges today before taking a lunch break.

County Auditor Barbara Loch said observers for the Norm Coleman and Al Franken campaigns have challenged at least 7 ballots that were examined by Meeker County's six election judges at the county courthouse.

Loch said the challenges ranged from stray pen markings and the use of a red pen on a ballot to a small tear in one of the paper ballots.

Loch said she had not yet conferred with her assistant to calculate a total between the three two-person teams of judges.

Election judges restarted the recount at 1 p.m. Loch said she will make a decision at 4 p.m. whether the judges can "reasonably complete" the process or will need to reconvene Friday morning.

The Meeker County election judges will recount 30 precincts, or about 12,166 ballots, in the recount, Loch said.

Update 10 a.m.

BENSON - An apparent lack of standard operating procedure for how recounts are conducted caused some confusion in Swift County and a heated exchange between the Swift County auditor and a Coleman campaign official.

Stacey Barrack repeatedly asked Auditor Byron Giese to stop the recount Thursday morning as the first Swift County precinct for the U.S. Senate race was being recounted.

Barrack objected to Giese's denial of a challenge made by the Coleman observer. She told Giese that he had no right to voice his opinion on whether a challenge was frivolous or not. She said the observer had the right to challenge ballots.

"Challenge me in court," said Giese to Barrack. "I call it a frivolous challenge."

Barrack also asked that observers be allowed to see the backside of the ballots, and she asked Giese to start the recount process over.

While Barrack was talking to Coleman officials on her phone in the hallway, Giese received a phone call from the Secretary of State's office.

After the completion of his Secretary of State's office phone call, Giese ordered the recount of the precinct to start over, allowing both sides of the ballot to be viewed and allowing challenges without stating his opinion.