Canvasing Board will rule on rejected absentee ballots
ST. PAUL -- Observers of Minnesota's U.S. Senate recount turn their attention today from ballots to a state board. As the hand recount of 2.9 million votes marches on at sites around Minnesota, the state Canvassing Board will meet to consider whe...
ST. PAUL -- Observers of Minnesota's U.S. Senate recount turn their attention today from ballots to a state board.
As the hand recount of 2.9 million votes marches on at sites around Minnesota, the state Canvassing Board will meet to consider whether some rejected absentee ballots should be included in the tally.
Canvassing Board members -- Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, two Supreme Court justices and two district judges -- are considering the issue at Al Franken's request.
The Democrat's campaign says improperly rejected absentee ballots must be counted. GOP Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign believes that issue should be settled in the courts.
Those ballots could sway the outcome of the historically close Senate race. When Coleman's 215-vote lead heading into the recount is adjusted with recount numbers through Tuesday, that edge grew to 238 with 81 percent of the ballots counted.
The number of ballots challenged by either side spiked again Tuesday, making it more difficult to know how the recount is going because those votes are excluded from the reported total. Franken observers have challenged 1,758 ballots, while Coleman officials challenged 1,836 votes. The Canvassing Board will meet next month to examine challenged ballots.
In anticipation of the state board's public deliberations today, Franken's campaign said Tuesday it received 66 county lists showing 6,432 absentee or mailed ballots were rejected in the election. The campaign had an affidavit suggesting some were improperly discarded.
That included two Duluth ballots that were rejected due to "clerical error" and recount "judge error," the document claims. Additionally, an Itasca County ballot was rejected with the explanation: "We messed up and somebody put in the reject pile."
Itasca County Auditor Jeff Walker said in an interview Tuesday night that that ballot and two other absentee ballots were legitimate votes, but were mistakenly not counted election night. County officials, who already completed their recount of cast ballots, will meet Monday to count those three votes.
"In a perfect world you wouldn't have this," Walker said. "You wouldn't have accepted ballots that were not counted."
The campaigns were paying close attention Tuesday to Becker County, which experienced ballot problems for a second straight day. Becker County officials reported Tuesday morning they were missing 46 ballots from two precincts. The ballots were found later in the day. That came after officials said Monday they had misplaced ballots on election night and found them days later.
The campaigns dispatched additional recount staff to the county.
"We are concerned about the situation that is going on there," said Marc Elias, lead recount attorney for the Franken campaign.
"Let's call them special observers," Coleman recount attorney Fritz Knaak said of the extra staff sent to Becker County.
The Franken campaign raised concerns again Tuesday that the number of ballots reported missing around the state continues to grow.
Knaak said while there have been reports of misplaced ballots, most are solved promptly after election officials "frantically" search for and find the ballots.