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

Minnesota recount could get ugly

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[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Dennis

    Having the job of recounting the ballots sounds painfully dull. However, being an observer to this mess sounds even worse.

    November 19, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  2. LiberalChris

    Wow. Sounds like Colemen's people are getting desperate. I hope he gets booted out just like Steven's. Oh man now we dems are just two seats away. Come on Minnesota get us one seat closer.

    November 19, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  3. JJ in NY

    Franken is still just a comedy writer, and the people who support him are jokes .

    November 19, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. Laverne

    ah bye bye Norm Coleman!

    November 19, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. Jaye

    I smell a Franken victory!

    November 19, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. Sarah in the South

    Who would'a thunk it. Stewart Smally might be a US Senator! Canada here I come! At least they can claim Alex Trebeck!

    November 19, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. Mari, Obama junkie

    I feel sorry for those poor re-counters. I think I'd go postal having people hovering over me for hours a day. I hope they're getting paid well...

    November 19, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  8. Ken

    "Ritchie, a Democrat, has come under criticism by Republicans the past week for what they say are moves to favor Franken."

    Well, I'm so glad to hear that the [R]s have thier panties in a bunch over Ritchie. I have one response for them:
    K-A-T-H-E-R-I-N H-A-R-R-I-S!!!!

    And JJ in NY, I'm LMAO at YOU!

    November 19, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  9. craig

    I'd love to hear what Franken said in 2000 about that recount now that he is the subject of one.

    November 19, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  10. B in Oregon

    Al Franken is a JOKE. I can't imagine anyone voting for him. How terrible must his opposition be that even one person could support a man with no experience beyond satire and poorly written political trash books. A left wing version of Ann Coulter could be a United States Senator. Kill me now.

    November 19, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  11. Rob

    re: JJ in NY

    JJ, interesting you thing more than half the voting peoples of Minnesota are jokes! So, who's the real people? Maybe the some 20% of people that think Bush's doing an acceptable job? Can half of all people be... a joke? That's a funny joke! HAHA!

    November 19, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  12. oneStarman

    UGLY IS AS UGLY DOES – Bare knuckle politics at its finest.

    November 19, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  13. Karen, Arkansas

    What is it with the voters in MN??? First a wrestler now a comedy writer? What happend to the politics of HHH? Nelson-Pallmeyer should have been the Democratic choice. There would have been no need for a recount. The man was smart, caring and a great guy. He would have won easy!

    November 19, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  14. Pete

    The dems will just try to reinterpret the "intent" of the voters like they did in Florida in 2000. I'm sure they will make a spectal of themselves, again. But hey Obamanites, don't worry, he promotes change you can believe in.

    November 19, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  15. Iowa Mom

    @ Mari, Obama junkie

    I agree! It would be mind-numbing enough going through all those ballets let alone people watching over your shoulder. I don't envy those people!

    November 19, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  16. Phil

    Hey Norm , I hear Wal-Mart is hiring !!!!!!!

    November 19, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. Rick, Former Minnesotan

    Coleman is trying to stop the votes from being counted – because he is ahead. I don't care who wins, but let all of the votes be counted and counted correctly. Let not the courts stop that process. We all win if we know that the election was fair and the counting was complete.

    November 19, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  18. David

    It already is ugly. Al Franken has that kind of affect on things.

    November 19, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. EW

    Al Franken is obviously not in this to help the people. His actions throughout are just shameful. What a bitter, bitter man.

    November 19, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  20. anthony brown

    Franken should have conceded the election on Nov. 4 and not put the country through this. Once again Gore style politics at work.

    November 19, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  21. Scott

    I'd like to see Franken win. I've always been impressed by his intelligence as well as his sense of humor (and I think the two things are related). However, if this recount goes against him, I think he should concede. There's no need to drag this out – just make sure the votes are counted as best as possible and go on with life. Change people voted for should mean change in the 'bare knuckles' politics too.

    November 19, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  22. hugh ~ california

    Yes, Al Franken was a comedian, yes, he makes political jokes, yes, he is serious about being a senator. People knocking Franken most likely voted for George W. Bush–think about it.

    "We the unwilling, lead by the unqualified...."

    November 19, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. mn resident

    Norm Coleman is a poor senator.

    The fact that a nut like Frankin is this close shows you that a turncoat like Colemand does not serve Minnesotans well. Minnesota has never been a Bush state yet Norm has never distanced himself for W. but cuddled up to him shamlessly. If the Dems had nominated someone less obnoxious it would have been another win for them.

    November 19, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  24. oneStarman

    WHO CAN END THE FILIBUSTER – he said, "That would be me, Al Franken." – I can't wait.

    November 19, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  25. 3strikes

    hopefully coleman beats franken, because americans will go down deeper into suffering with a democrat controlled america

    November 19, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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