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. 3strikes

    hopefully coleman will beat franken

    November 19, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  2. Cindy

    Knock off the Franken cheap shots, people. By law, the recount was automatic, and Franken had no obligation, morally, legally or ethically, to concede on election night. I'm a MN resident, and I want my tax dollars used for recounts when it's this close.

    November 19, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. EJ

    Minnesota has too many people who vote for third parties. That's why they elected Jesse Ventura.. The major third party senate candidate got 15% of the vote and in two suburban house seats Independent candidates got around 10% of the vote which resulted in Republicans holding the sear. It they did things the way Georgia did we would be having three run off races. I sometimes wonder if that would be an easier solution or to use weighted balloting when there are more than two people in the race.

    November 19, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  4. Red, Red WHINE!!

    I personally agree that Al Franken running for office is a joke. The only thing worse then voting for Franken..... is voting for a republican.

    November 19, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  5. KDH, Minneapolis

    If Franken causes Minnesotans to be the but of voting jokes like the people in Florida, I will never forgive him.
    I can't believe so many people voted for Franken, who is so full of hate and partisanship. I doubt he fits into Obama's new politics ideal.

    November 19, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. kevin

    Well with representatives of both candidates monitoring every step of this there shouldn't be any claims of the election being "stolen."

    November 19, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  7. Dorothy in NC

    I don't understand why it is so difficult to determine a winner. I don't know the process but it ought to be right the first time...and when they recount once, it should be the same number. If the number is different there had better be an investigation.

    November 19, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  8. K

    Speaking of ugly...Al Franken really every sense of the word!

    November 19, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. Biff


    I have not followed MN closely. What actions in particular of Franken's are shameful?

    and what are the things he has said/done that you characterize him as "bitter".

    really... that's a serious, no bull question.

    November 19, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  10. Matt from Minnesota

    Will it looks like this race is far from over, it will take until the president elect is sworn in before we know what is going to happen here in Minnesota. After over a year wroth of crap on the TV and newspaper people in Minnesota are still dealing with an election that has gone on way to long. AL or Norm who ever wins this recount due us all in Minnesota a favor move on with your lives so we can move on with ours.

    November 19, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    To anthony brown: Why should Franken concede when the state requires a recount? That simply make no sense and I suspect you would feel differently if Coleman were the one 215 votes behind. The recount in Florida wasn't a Gore recount. Why do you fear democracy in action? The candidate with the most votes after the recount will be the legitimate victor.

    November 19, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. Doug in New Mexico

    And just how is a recount ugly? Are they wearing masks, making faces, swearing, cursing, fighting, or even digging in the dirt with the pigs?

    November 19, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  13. Kyle

    I really wanted to have Barkley win because I heartily dislike Franken and Coleman. Now I want Franken to win purely because I want a Filibuster proof Senate for the Dems.

    November 19, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  14. Robert Wendel

    People AND machines make mistakes, hence the mandated recount when an election outcome is less than a certain margin of error. The object is to get the results right. The rest is talking-heads, pundits, and partisans trying to justify their jobs and pay checks. Relax people! Recounts are nothing new... even Miss America and Miss Universe have had recounts. Whoever wins, they are but 1 of 100, as opposed to 1 president or the other.

    November 19, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  15. hari

    Hi guys,
    Don't even try to go to Florida recount in 2000. The Republicans stole that election and every one knows this obvious truth.
    Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush and every one from GOP twisted the law to their party's favor.
    Franken is a very capable and smart man for U.S. Senate. He is a Harvard graduate, excellent radio host, great comedian, and knows all the issues faced by the country pretty well.
    It is a shame that he is trailing.
    Lot of bloggers here put him down since he is a comedian. If you see his shows or listen to him, he has a huge talent in creativity and spontaneity. It is not a talent many people have.
    I listened him speak in senate debates and on radio before election. He has very clear understanding and depth of issues facing the country from Iraq war to economy.
    He did not just nod and cheerlead to all the bad decisions taken by Mr.Bush like Mr.Coleman.
    He would be a great senator and the US senate would be much better with smart views, ideas and talent.

    November 19, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. Texas Trail Kitty

    I hope Al Franken wins. There are more than enough Republicans in the House and Senate, and we need to clean both houses of these peopls so that President Obama can get something done. The Republicans don't want a filibuster proof majority so that they can cause as much trouble with their interminable foot-dragging. The new president will need people who are ready to go to work, not people who are dragging down the process.

    I understand that the Republicans are already scoffing at President Obama pick of personnel as not 'enough change'. If he surrounded himself with inexperienced newcomers, the Repubs would be whining about that. PLEASE JUST GO SOMEWHERE AND SIT DOWN!

    November 19, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  17. Greed is not good

    Only 2 more to 60 super-majority...the GOP is barely hanging on for life.
    No shiesty Florida politicians this time to interfere with the recount process.

    November 19, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  18. Jen

    Jaye, how do you smell a Franken victory when he is behind? Just curious... And as far as I can see, Coleman has won this thing fair and square. I don't think you people realize it, but a supermajority would be disastrous. A two-party system is one the many things that makes this country so great.

    November 19, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. Mark

    Concede now Franken! All this counting of votes is just a waste of taxpayer money and precious TV time, right? In fact, I'd like to go even further: why bother to vote at all. If Democrats would just have the patriotism and good sense to simply concede to their GOP opponents before the vote took place, then we could save the public millions, and save the country from the agony of DEMOCRACY! Really, I sometimes wonder whether Republicans ever learned anything in High School civics...the rudiments of a democratic political system seem beyond them. And their irritation with the messy business of a democracy is astounding. Democracy isn't perfect, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, but it's greatly preferable to all other forms of government.

    November 19, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  20. anthead

    to all you anti Franken folks, the Republicans lost, get over it.

    November 19, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  21. Dave DiSisto

    I think JJ in NY forgets that nearly half the voters have voted for Franken; does he really think that almost 50% of the Minnesota voters are jokes? If he does, he better take a very close look at himself. He owes all the voters in Minnesota an apology. Just because a person is a wrestler or a comedian does not make him or her stupid or disenfranchise their right to be in politics. When one looks at the likes of Bush and Spitzer and Stevens, it is clear that stupidity can be found in any profession. It's the person who is stupid not the position. All that being said I hope Franken wins and I hope the Georgia run-off vote goes to the Democrats. I am confident that with a filabuster proof Senate, President Obama and the Democrats will bring a much needed change to America. And a change doesn't have to mean you can't have "old school" politicians as part of the mix. There is ordered change and there is chaotic change. Mr. Obama will bring ordered change to America.

    November 19, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  22. grammy

    Yes, Franken is an author. In fact Harvard hired him to work with undergrads. He wrote a book that they fact checked for him..He's more intelligent and knows more about politics than most of those' gopeers' in congress...
    I think that a person should have a good grasp of the job he's trying for...I think Minnesota would benefit greatly from a man as knowledgeable as Al Franken!

    November 19, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  23. hjh

    Coleman has the power to end this recount here and now. All he has to do is concede.

    November 19, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  24. TJ Johnson

    You already elected a fool to the White House, and now you want to elect a jester to the Senate rather than a man of senate experience???

    November 19, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
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