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

Minnesota recount could get ugly

, ,

[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. fkim

    Al Fraken has a higher IQ than most people on the planet. But of course republicans want somebody likeable and cute and have character like Bush and Palin that don't have a clue. Dittoheads the times they are a changin...hope Al Fraken wins and does well.

    November 19, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  2. Gene

    Ok.. here we go.. take 2.. maybe they'll be able to find people who actually know how to count, and which numbers come after which

    November 19, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  3. don in kansas

    I am reminded of those Bushie Brownshirts that physically stopped the counts in Florida 2000, 'til they could get all their ducks lined up. hopefully, they don't have all the ducks this time. Coleman's brother is not the gov of Minnesota and that crazy Michele Bachmann lady isn't the sec of state.

    November 19, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  4. Pat MN before, AR now

    I used to be an election judge in MN. We always ran clean elections. A recount is automatic (if I remember right) if there is less than 500 between two candidates. Those of you that try to say Jesse or 3rd party candidates as a bad thing, maybe the US should consider it more. Gives you more to choose from and Jesse was a relatively good governor. Way better than Humphrey or the other guy who ran,and, while they took if for granted, Jesse woke up the electorate. I think we need more than two to choose from. But two candidates' worth of publicity and advertising was way too much for me and if there had been a 3rd or a 4th....OM Gosh, it would have been terrible. Just think what we could do with the millions of bucks that were spent on advertising.

    November 19, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  5. Dave in Illinois

    This whole thing sounds like a Saturday Night Live Stuart Smalley skit where you could never understand the punch lines to know when to laugh.
    What's next, Mr Bill and Sluggo as Cabinet members? Guess not because they weren't part of the Clinton Administration.

    November 19, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  6. ulysses

    The things Coleman has said since election day are just shameful. What a scumbag. His declaration of victory before the votes have been counted, his suggestion that Franken should decline the recount "for the good of MN" (more like for the good of Norm Coleman), and his continued suggestions that counting all eligible voters is somehow undemocratic – all this makes me even more eager to get rid of him than I already was. I find Franken personally kind of annoying, but I think he'll make a good senator.

    Remember, in Minnesota a recount is automatic when the margin is within 0.5%. The margin of 215 votes is 0.0074%. There is no doubt that more than 215 votes will change through the course of the recount. The machines in MN are more accurate than some machines in other states, but they're not perfect. I highly doubt they're more than 99.9926% accurate. And then there's human error. MN law requires ballots to be counted if the voter intent is clear, even if the voter didn't prepare the ballot in a way that makes it machine-readable. The only thing that remains to be determined is which way, if any, the final vote tally will move. This isn't politics, it's accounting. Let's let them do their jobs.

    November 19, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  7. James Hall

    Wow. Cmon Franken! Dont listen to the critics. Any morron knows you cant reason with hate, judgement, hyppocracy, and ignorance of silly little things like facts. So just let them go on and on with their, what did they call it, ah yes, "whining", while we try and undo the damage their rhetoric and "misleading language" has done the the true spirit of this democracy. Dems arent perfect, but we dont just preach life, we actually express it.

    November 19, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  8. Dee

    I'm sorry, Minnesotans – your state is beautiful, but your politics are a circus. Really...Al FRANKEN?!?!

    November 19, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  9. Lauren independent voter California

    That is a whole lot of counting they've got to do, wow!!!

    November 19, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  10. Both sides Spin everything

    Hey which state has a senate election next year. I wanna move there before the deadline so I can run for senate, Forget about being from the state or never living there. Its more important to get someone in there who could win and help your party out not the people who live there. I wanna be a modern day carpetbagger.

    November 19, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  11. chuck

    I don't like the chances of the Democrats in this recount.The Republicans are very good cheaters and live for these situations.Just say Bush,Cheney and Rove,they are going to jail for the same reasons.

    November 19, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  12. Lynne

    I think it is so funny to read these blogs and the number of right-wingers threatening to move to Canada..where gay marriage is legal...where they have socialized healthcare...where they speak two languages...all of the socially liberal things right-wingers whine about and swear it will tear our nation apart when proposed here. Socialism with thier democracy – Isn't that what they were sooooo scared of Obama for?

    So, I've come to the conclusion that either right wing bloggers didn't do their research about Canada before speaking or all of those things they go into a tizzy about don't really bother them in real life.

    November 19, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  13. Los

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

    Good thing the Republicans succeeded in stealing it first.

    November 19, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  14. Fred

    Just count the votes and stop the GOP voter suppression.

    November 19, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  15. Martin from Germany

    Every time i read about recounts, challenges and all this a thought pops into my mind: why did we in Germany, in 60 years of democratic elections on local, state and federal level, NEVER, not ONCE, had these problems? Why would someone force by law an "automatic recount"? You get it RIGHT FIRST TIME!

    I admit, we do handcounting with a representative of every party on the ballot on every counting table in every precinct. That is quite expensive, slow and tiresome. But we have CORRECT results within 24-72 hours. Maybe someone from the FEC should take a look at our system...

    November 19, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  16. GA for Obama

    scott Tucson- John McCain isn't president, that won't happen, wake UP

    November 19, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  17. Vic

    No cheating!!!

    November 19, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  18. Spencer

    This could go either way. There could easily be 2 or 3 thousand ballots which were "unreadable" by machine. The intent on many of the ballots should be apparent to a human being who looks at them. If the people who produce these ballots "lean" Republican, then Coleman will win. If they "lean" Democratic, then Franken could get the majority.

    November 19, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  19. Jim

    Interesting that all of the DIMocrats here think Obama must have filibuster-proof majority in the Senate to get anything done. President Bush NEVER had a filibuster-proof majority (and for 2 years hasn't even had a simple majority) and you kooks blame him when you catch a cold.

    The DIMs have a solid majority in both houses, so everything that goes wrong in the next 4 years will be Obama's fault. (even bad weather!!!)

    November 19, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  20. N

    How do people think that Franken has won? He's behind. No wonder the same delusional people somehow think that Florida in 2000 was stolen when Bush never trailed.

    November 19, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  21. New Thinker

    Sen. Norm Coleman is going down on the Republican cruise ship that hit an iceberg (the economy). Let's hope Sen. Saxby Chambliss is on that voyage too! Bon voyage to the bottom of the ocean for them.
    Their Executive Officer, Sarah Palin, has already departed the ship like a scurrying rat. And, if Senator McCain gets lucky, he'll be rescued by the SS Obama.

    November 19, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  22. Paul C.

    LOL, now that the right wing is thankfully out of power I just get such a good laugh at the absolute bitter nonsense that the few, and I mean few right wingers post here. I said this on another story but you people need to worry about the nation, your own Republican party that is in defeated ruins and your own nothing lives. JJ in NY, you're a pitiful fool, Mark you need to stop eating those paint chips, they're making you stupid man. And finally "both sides are spinning" you are the worst of them all. I have more respect for a Republican who votes than a self-described intellectual who excuses his nonvoting and his apathy with paragraphs of obscure doubletalk that were written a half-century ago by addle-brained political theorists. People like you are the worst and live for ridiculous conspiracy theories, i.e. The World Trade Center was destroyed by controlled demolition. And I know you few right wingers don't know what you're talking about most of the time but you need to learn more about Al Franken then what you hear with trash like Prager, Hannity, Limbaugh and the supreme has been Dennis Miller. Otherwise you're just acting like the witless fools you really are.

    November 19, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  23. WIlly Brown

    Democrats going to do their dirty best to steal another one.

    November 19, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  24. Robert in Oklahoma

    I believe in Al Franken...just because a person participated in a silly TV show (or series of movies - see Ronald Reagan) that doesn't mean that they are disqualified from public service! Read his books...
    I think you'll find a person increasingly informed and ready to take on the beaurocratic nightmares that face the common folks. Whether he wins or not, I'm proud of Americans who are willing to put their money (and their time) where their mouth is! You won't find Rush running for office, because it's too easy to complain and berate, but too difficult to actually lead and make the big decisions.

    November 19, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  25. Jesus Praising Freedom Loving Patriot


    And for every vote to count, every vote must be counted.

    I wish the 2000 Supreme Court would have held the same belief; maybe we wouldn't be in the economic and military hole that we're in.

    November 19, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7