November 19th, 2008
06:11 PM ET
6 years ago

Minnesota recount could get ugly

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A recount began Wednesday in the race between Sen. Norm Coleman and his Democratic challenger Al Franken.
A recount began Wednesday in the race between Sen. Norm Coleman and his Democratic challenger Al Franken.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) - The Senate campaign in Minnesota between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken was considered to be quite nasty, with attack ads and angry statements by both sides. Now, it seems the recount between the two candidates could be just as ugly.

Two weeks and one day after Election Day, a mandatory recount is underway in the state in the battle for Coleman's seat. Workers at 107 sites across Minnesota Tuesday began counting the more than 2.9 million votes cast in the contest.

Unofficial results put Coleman, a freshman Republican senator, just 215 votes ahead of his Democratic challenger, Al Franken, known across the country from his days on Saturday Night Live and from his years as a talk show host on Air America, the progressive radio network. The slim margin for Coleman, far less than one half of one percent, triggered an automatic recount, the first time there's ever been a recount of a US senate race in Minnesota.

Now election officials are beginning the long process of recounting all of the ballots. They're surrounded by election observers and lawyers from both campaigns, and the media.

Already today votes are being contested by observers from both campaigns. And the Associated Press reports that a volunteer observer for Coleman was asked to step out of the recount room in Ramsey County when he loudly questioned the picking up by Franken of three votes in one precinct.

In Minneapolis, by mid-day, there was one ballot challenged in the elections warehouse location, where the re-count is underway for all of the city's ballots. Minnesota's largest city is part of Hennepin County, a large county which has several other recount locations serving it. But there could be more challenged ballots by the end of the day as ballots are put into a pile of potentially challenged ballots throughout the day. Challenged ballots go on to the state canvassing board, which oversees the recount, for review.

Even though the recount has begun, there are still legal challenges. Franken's campaign contends that there are some rejected absentee ballots that should be counted.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says he thinks major interruptions with court actions will be avoided.

"I think people feel really confident that we're going to move forward and just et this done. That is the feeling you get and I think that's the commitment that people have so that's how I feel about it as well."

Ritchie, a Democrat, has come under criticism by Republicans the past week for what they say are moves to favor Franken. Ritchie disputes that and points to the fact that the five member canvassing board is made up of himself two state supreme court justices and two district judges who are equally divided by party.

The recount will extend well into December. The recount sites across Minnesota have a deadline of the first week of December to report their results. After that the state's canvassing board meets to rule on disputed ballots and to certify the election. And after that, if one side is not happy with the results, legal action could be possible.

Even though the recount has begun, there are still legal challenges. Wednesday, the Franken campaign won a partial victory.

A judge in Ramsey County granted the Franken campaign access to information it requested on voters whose absentee ballots were rejected.

The campaign's communications director Andy Barr applauded the move, saying, "We are pleased with this development, and especially gratified that Judge Lindman recognized that our efforts are intended 'to ensure that each valid vote is properly counted."

The Coleman camp fired back. Campaign Manager Cullen Sheehan urged the Franken campaign to "exercise restraint in use of voter data," adding "voters whose information will now be released should not be subjected to harassment or intimidation."


Filed under: Al Franken • Minnesota • Norm Coleman • Senate
soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. Steve

    Why is anybody shocked by this? They elected Jesse Ventura governor and he was a wrestler! This is what's wrong with America. Everyone claim's to be tired of politicians but then people get confused when a pure outsider runs for office. Who cares if he was a comedian. It's time that the comedians, plumbers (just not joe), factory workers, delivery drivers, etc. start running for office. Everyday people will make the right decisions for America. It's time to put an end to the status quo of politics in this country.

    November 19, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  2. RNC stooge

    Mr. Coleman, I am sorry I was unable to burn the absentee ballots, but that would have been illegal. However, accidentally (wink, wink) misplacing or disqualifying Democratic ballots is not. Unfortunately, election officials are beginning to locate these ballots. However, please don't be alarmed, I continue to do my best, as I was taught by the GOP best,...to deceive!!

    November 19, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  3. dave

    Concerning no minorities being in the room during the recount, please look up the census in that state and you will find a lily white plain. Just because Obama is president now 2 out of every 5 talking heads is black, doesn't mean we need the "Black perspective" in every issue. Its ok to trust whitey sometimes, after all we've made it this far.

    November 19, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  4. Sarge in Florida

    Such a short margin...I say do a runoff election. Anything that close should happen....

    November 19, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  5. Rolling in the Aisles, VA

    Mike wrote:
    Hopefully, the Democrats will not be able to steal the election, much like their attempts in Florida in 2000.
    Say what? Let's set the record straight here, all you revisionists:
    With the help of his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris, Republican appointed Florida Attorney General, George Bush came to power when the recount was STOPPED before all the votes could be counted, in the greatest election frauds in US history. This after entire boxes of ballots mysteriously disappeared from precincts throughout the state, only to be delivered hours later by State Police and County Sheriffs with no record of having picked them up! The Shrub was APPOINTED by the (mostly Republican-appointed) US Supreme Court in case which even they admitted was unprecedented (and by the way, has no support in the US Constitution, or anywhere else for that matter) AND limited to that case by agreement, carrying NO legal authority whatsoever.

    We should thank our lucky stars it can never happen again.

    November 19, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  6. Sammy

    I just hope they dont go down the "intent of the voter" route like they did in Florida.

    November 19, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  7. sara

    just checked, there are approximately 3.1 million registered voters in MN and 2.9 million of them voted. That's close to 94% voter turnout! Good for you MN! Every vote must be counted.

    November 19, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  8. Harry, IL

    Al Franken will do anything to get power. He is an idiot.

    November 19, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  9. Lauri in Nordeast Minneapolis

    I was an election judge and what I observed at our precinct was the utmost in civility and honesty by everyone who worked the polls-Dems and Repubs alike. Over 90% of my precinct cast ballots and I helped register over 400 new voters that day. Minnesota is tops in the nation for election integrity and methodology. Other states have chosen to emulate our election model. Our Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, is managing the recount with total transparency: Public education about the process, daily–sometimes hourly–press briefings, and a non-partisan approach.
    So you can mock and knock our candidates, but remember: MINNESOTA IS NOT A "FROZEN FLORIDA!"
    FYI: Franken has superior intelligence, a populist heart, and progressive ideals-he's a natural successor to Paul Wellstone. It's a shame that this race is so close.

    November 19, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  10. red33,cedar rapids, ia

    Let's face it.............truthfully. Franken and the 'dems' will do anything to win, and the ones who are on his team, unfortunately, have more power than they should have in the vote recounting. Sad....... What has this country come to?? Truman must be rotating in his grave. He was a TRUE democrat that was not 'shady'.

    November 19, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  11. Peter (CA)

    MIke in Syracuse,

    I knew agreeing with you on the Romeny post would be a one time thing.

    The screw-ups happened over the first six years with a Republican president and a Repulbican congress. And a Democratic minority with no backbone.

    Believe me, most of us don't care if we get to 60 or not. Frankly, I prefer we don't. If the Republicans decide to obstruct, I want everyone to know it.

    November 19, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  12. hugh ~ california

    Let the recount begin! Where you like or dislike Al Franken, there is a thing called the voting process–ugly or not.
    Why would Minnesotans vote for a political comedian? Remember, they voted Jesse "The Body" Ventura, the former wrestler, their governor not too long ago. Why would you be shocked now?

    November 19, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  13. Erika, KS

    Good. I hope it gets really messy. Go Al!

    November 19, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  14. Buck, NY

    Bring it on, it's worth it. The whole country's waiting so get it right.

    November 19, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  15. JRBS in MN

    A word from ground zero... most Minnesotans are fine with this recount and do not consider it a waste of resources. This is a state that believes in their right to vote as is exemplified by the VERY high consistent voter turn out in this state. Every thing is legal, and, while there will be wrangling from both sides, we will accept what comes back after the recount.

    Personally, I'm rooting for Franken. If you haven't lived in MN, you may not realize how much of a sleazebag Coleman is; a politician who's personal views change with the winds of power as he has already switched from the Democratic to Republican parties. His regular daliances with his mistress are one of the biggest secrets in the state.

    Franken is a Minnesota native – not some carpetbagger – and INCREDIBLY well versed in politics. And, given how undervotes tend to go, I believe we will see the 206 vote margin for Coleman swing to Franken by the end. Coleman knows this which is why he's calling for Franken's concession. Honestly, if it were the other way around, with Franken holding a small lead, we would see the recount happen (which is state LAW), but we wouldn't expect as much drama; Franken's just going to get more votes as the process continues.

    November 19, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  16. Col Kilgore

    Remember those half wit college Republicans yelling at the recounters in Florida like a bunch of retards ? Why do people laugh at USA now anyways again ?

    November 19, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  17. nomad

    The republicans may now reap what they have swoan, they wanted one true and strong party in power now they have it. The Democrats

    November 19, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  18. michael f

    @ N,
    For the record, Al Gore had more votes than Bush did when the networks called it for Bush.

    November 19, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  19. ran

    Coleman needs to leave.

    November 19, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  20. Connecticut Connection

    We now see the wisdom of Obama ... get as close as you can to 60 senators then flip a couple of republicans on fillibusters.

    In two years, we'll gain more seats and then we can shoot you know who....

    November 19, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  21. KLEE

    They absolutely need to make the election process "fool-proof" nation wide!

    Meanwhile – VP elect Biden has cupcakes!! now we're talking! Bring coffee or tea – lets just take a break. Please.

    November 19, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  22. Peter (CA)

    JRBS-
    Thanks for the insight. As someone who has visited Minnesota several times I can see how important your rights are to you and that you are not afraid to vote in someone who has ideas, instead of the same old, same old.

    Just count the votes. Count all of the votes and whoever wins, wins.
    It does not have to be difficult and no one then has to complain although if Franken pulls ahead, I am sure the right wingers will be fit to be tied.

    November 19, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  23. malclave

    Hopefully, the Republicans will be able to prevent Franken from adding any more fraudulent votes into the mix.

    November 19, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  24. Cynthia

    The challenges that are taking place on these ballots are ridiculous. Most of the challenges are coming from Franken's people and they are purely ridiculous. They are challenging what is CLEARLY a Coleman vote, but they challenged it because the person did not stay in the lines of the circle. Get a life. We may have elected Jesse Venture, but at least he had some experience. He was a mayor of city that was not small by any means. What experience does Franken have...NONE! The Dems are trying to obtain their fillibuster through the most ruthless means. As an American citizen, I am disgusted.

    November 19, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  25. Syed Shamsuddoha

    Can someone please explain how this recount might (or might not) potentially change the outcome of the election since there is no more hanging chad or anything of that nature any more. The machine-readable ballots are pretty straight forward and the machines are not specific to any candidate. Am I the only one to have this kind of perception? Or it's a legitimate question. i am lost.

    Cheers.

    S

    November 19, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
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