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. rob

    as far as the majority seats in congress, believe me when i tell you that the worst thing for this country is having a fillibuster-proof congress, no matter which party it is. SAY GOODBYE TO CHECKS AND BALANCES! those that want this, you will be sorry

    November 19, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  2. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    Th thought of Coleman continuing in the former seat of the late great Senator Wellstone makes me sick, I hope Franken wins.

    November 19, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  3. Johnny the Boy

    This is funny. From the way I'm hearing it, the only way the Demomorons to achieve any kind of success is to achieve the presidencey and a fillibuster proof super majority?

    If that doesn't happen are the demomorons gonna blame bush, cheney, mom, dad and apple pie again?

    Are the demomorons already making excuses?

    P.S. – How is gonna play obama the logo president on SNL for the next four years? Eddie Murphy? Chris Rock? Charles Barkley?

    November 19, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  4. Irony

    counting every vote is not a waste of money. Not counting votes, or any desire to stop counting based on the "waste of money" argument is un-american, antipatriotic, and shortsighted.

    Count every vote, then we will know who won.

    If you think counting votes is a waste, move to a country that doesn't have elections. and dont let the door hit you on the way out!

    November 19, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  5. Rod

    To all of you who are referencing the Florida 2000 recount, you need a history lesson: it was Bush's folks who disputed the count.

    But then I guess that's not a Rush talking point, huh?

    November 19, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  6. Hopeful for Tomorrow

    @anthonybrown - Just like the democratic candidate in Alaska should have conceded? When he was 3,000 votes behind? The difference here is much less and every vote should be counted accurately.

    November 19, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  7. Matt

    Al Franken is in the race it's already been ugly for a long time.

    November 19, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  8. Irony

    calling on either candidate to concede is unpatriotic, and un-American!

    Count every vote. It's democracy!

    November 19, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. Scott Tucson

    Dems should enjoy the next 4 years, after that when Change have not materialized, troops still in Iraq, taxes are raised across the board, Blacks realizing they still have to find a job, pay their mortages, buy gas for their cars. People would be demanding another change by voting the dems out as they did to the Republicans this year.

    November 19, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  10. Mike, Syracuse NY

    How is it that Bush was able to screw up the economy in the last 2 years with a Democratic Congress, but Obama needs a filibuster proof majority to get anything done? Can't a simple majotrity fix things since a simple majority let the get screwed up?

    November 19, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    How much does this recount cost? Lets just say both don't win and we pick a better candidate. Maybe Mrs. Palin

    November 19, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  12. Milhouse van Houten

    Of course it's going to get ugly.It already is....did you see those two guys,whoa,that's ugly......

    November 19, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  13. JR

    Franken! Franken! Franken!

    November 19, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  14. Carolyn

    Wolf, as i watched the Situation Room today and the recount in Minn. I saw no minorities in the room. That is one reason that makes things look bad.

    November 19, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  15. Chris

    It's all very dull for the poor recounters but iI can feel the Republicans almost crying in impotent frustration and it makes me feel good.

    Franken will win fair and square. Why is it suddenly such a bad idea to have a recount in a very tight race. Seems like normal procedure to me and most other rational person.

    Then again, I'm not the one watching power slipping slowly from my grasp. This is so much fun!

    November 19, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  16. Reality

    215 votes? And they think a recount is going to be any more accurate? Is the state of Georgia the only one that knows how to do this right? Just have a run-off election - oh, and actually count all the votes this time.

    No, children the only reason we've had so many problems with elections since 2000 is that Republicans have been attempting to rig elections. Get it close and then flip votes and disqualify "questionable" ballots.

    November 19, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  17. DB25

    Coleman is scared because most of the ballots with undervotes are from heavily democratic counties. He will probably lose after the recount, so he doesn't want it to happen. No wonder it's ugly up there....

    November 19, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  18. commish in mich

    Maybe the GOP should file bankruptcy and disappear like they want the auto industry to do!

    November 19, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    The story calls Franken a "progressive" talk show host. Does that mean Mr. Coleman is NOT progressive? Franken is not progressive; he is a liberal or leftist. If Republicans can be called "conservative" or right wing, Franken can be called "liberal" or leftist.

    November 19, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  20. Vincent Connecticut

    How can anyone in Minnesota who voted for that jerk Franken look at themselves in the mirror? What were thinking? Even the Dems are hoping Coleman wins; they don't want Franken in the Senate with them. Franken is one of the most disgusting, despicable, unqualified persons who ever ran for public office. What an absolute disgrace and fraud if he "wins"

    November 19, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  21. rob

    hari, republicans did not steal anything in 2000, everybody wants to blame the gop, and say that the us supreme court decided it, but can we also remember that there was a democratic state supreme court in the heart of it. I guess people will argue that they were right! what a joke. the 2000 debockle happened because of a confusing butterfly ballot supposedly misinformed voters. everyone forgets that both sides aggreed on this before the election. it is sickening that democrats always whine when something doesn't go there way.

    November 19, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  22. Mike

    Hopefully, the Democrats will not be able to steal the election, much like their attempts in Florida in 2000.

    November 19, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  23. Tracy

    Just because the GOP is ahead now doesn't mean he will be after a recount.

    The Govenor race in 2004 in Washington state had 3 mandated recounts – the GOP candidate was ahead in the first 2 – not by much, but a few. In the 3rd, and last mandated recount, the Democrat came out on top by 133 votes.

    You would not believe the voting ballot fiaco in that election. Over 2 million votes cast and it came down to 133.

    In a rematch this year, the Dem beat the same GOP by well over 100K votes.

    Franken has a right to the recount!

    November 19, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  24. Johnny the Man

    The bottom line is you lost. Deal.

    November 19, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  25. Smart people for Al Franken

    Al Franken,

    Hang in there I've heard there is going to be a suprise that will go Mr. Franken way. Just you wait!!!

    November 19, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
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