News & Election Videos

December 03, 2008

Franken claims ballot breach

Did 133 ballots in Minneapolis go missing, or did an election official accidentally run ballots through counting machines twice on Election Night?

That’s the latest critical question facing Minnesota election officials, as the results from the too-close-to-call Senate race between Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn) and Democrat Al Franken appear as uncertain as ever.

During today’s recount, Minneapolis elections director Cindy Reichert found that one precinct counted 133 fewer ballots during the recount than were cast in the November election. She told the Pioneer-Press that the mistake happened when election judges mistakenly ran 129 ballots through a counting machine twice.

Coleman would gain as much as 46 votes from the election officials’ error, which would wipe away the 37 votes Franken netted Tuesday when Ramsey County officials found ballots that went uncounted Election Night.

It would also overturn the 22-vote lead that the Franken campaign claimed from its internal tally at the end of last night.

Franken’s campaign is calling foul, and says it has “grave concerns” about the discrepancy. Franken spokesman Andy Barr said 2,029 voters are listed as casting legal ballots on Election Day, with only 1,896 ballots counted in the recount.

And the campaign has written a letter to the Minnesota Secretary of State demanding that Reichert complete an extensive search for missing ballots in the precinct.

“This is an incredible breach of the democratic process,” said Franken spokesman Andy Barr. “That makes 133 residents of this one precinct in Minneapolis whose voices were effectively silenced by this serious error, and it must be corrected before anyone can consider this recount complete or accurate.”

Meanwhile, Coleman’s campaign remains cautiously optimistic that it will prevail at the end of the recount process. While Franken’s camp announced that it would withdraw over 600 challenges to recounted ballots, Coleman campaign attorney Fritz Knaak said they will not immediately be following suit.

“I don’t want to send a signal to the hard-working volunteers, telling them we’re going to second guess your judgment in advance,” said Knaak.

In response to the Franken campaign’s decision to withdraw 633 ballot challenges, Knaak said the Coleman campaign will wait until the end of the recount to determine whether it will follow suit.

Knaak added that the vast majority of the ballots that the Coleman campaign has challenged are legitimate challenges. And he said he “wouldn’t be surprised” that only a small number of the 6,092 challenged ballots will end up being included in the official tally.

Franken campaign’s internal tally – which showed Franken up 22 votes at the end of last night – is based on the presumption that all of the challenges have been frivolous, and would be rejected by the Canvassing Board.