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. 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.



    November 19, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  2. petena

    They do need to look at those questionnable ballots. Every vote should be counted. Period!

    November 19, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  3. aynes54

    Once again, you dems are showing your true color on this issue. No one in their right mind thinks that Franken has the votes. He is a ridiculous comedian that isn't even good at that! But you dems are okay with him stealing the election. You may not like Coleman but at least be for truth to prevail....

    November 19, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  4. That Other Jerry

    You know, every so often the country just changes its mind. I can accept that. I can accept a President Obama. I can accept a Democratic majority. I can accept a Democratic supermajority. But you people in Minnesota are telling me that even though this is the Democrats' year, and even with Barack Obama and the big change in Congress and Ted Stevens losing and everything else going the Democrats' way, the best you can send to Washington is AL FRANKEN???

    November 19, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  5. Texas Teacher

    Bush/Cheney made it clear that a Republican WILL STEAL an Election given the chance! Is Colemen's brother the Governor by chance? Just asking..... 🙂

    November 19, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  6. Annie, Atlanta

    Why can't we, in the age of such technological advances, figure out a way for all citizens' votes to count, as well as a fool proof way to count them. I saw a little of the counting on CNN this afternoon, and trust the good folks in Minnesota will do it right. Best wishes to them.

    November 19, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  7. Tim

    To the Southerners out there...don't you have a Jerry Springer episode to tape with your pregnant daughter or your brother-in-laws wife?! Of course you do.

    Go Al...Coleman is a crook!

    November 19, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  8. Brandon

    coleman is a slime ball. He totally played a disgusting game with the race after the tragic death of one of the senate's great men, Paul Wellstone. The fact that a slimy bush republicon is in Wellstone's seat makes me want to vomit. I only wonder what the people of Minnesota were thinking that made this race even close. Al Franken may be ascerbic and a little goofy, but his positions are excelletn, well researched, and well thought out. Nothing from the republicon party fits that bill.

    November 19, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  9. Texan

    Hey, 215 votes is still a majority. I smell a rat. Recounts are always untrustworthy. Fortunately I live in Texas and not Minnesota. Remember the good old days of Jesse Ventura?

    November 19, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  10. GM from MN

    The GOP are just pizzed off because they know if Franke wins here the Dems will be at 59 for senate seats (inluding independents) and the only thing stopping them from reaching a filibuster proof 60 senate, would be the runoff election on Dec. 2nd down in Georgia.

    November 19, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  11. Brandon

    Can you only imagine if they had done this in Florida in 2000? Imagine the last eight years with a president Gore instead of chimp. Makes me want to cry or scream. Oh well. Once again the Democrats have to bail the nation out of the incredible hole left by the republicons. Same old same old. republicons lie and scheme enough to scrape back into power, royal mess up the country, then hand it over to Democrats to fix while the republicons wallow in all the wealth they stole from the working people and plundered resources while they held power.

    If you voted republicons in the past decades - look in the mirror, wag a finger at yourself saying shame shame shame. Then hang your head and promise you will never do anything that foolish or destructive ever again.

    November 19, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  12. Carl

    I find it a little odd that the problems arising from votes are in very pro-democratic areas, where every single vote has been changed from R to D or all new votes went to the D side.

    Not ONE DARN vote when to the other guy, when several thousand were recounted.

    I'm sorry, but that's impossible. Both sides steal elections... that's why I refuse to support anyone with an R or D by their name except Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich...

    November 19, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  13. Paul

    If the voting system was reliable there wouldn't need to be a recount, it would be right first time. I guess I'm dreaming. It will never happen. There's always room for human error (or invention).

    November 19, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  14. SD,Michigan

    I'm pessimistic..I smell a Franken defeat...then I'd go even nuttier about the whole "fillibuster proof" thingy and Judas Joe Lieberman..God I hope I'm wrong! Let Al Franken "plow through" that door, please!
    Well, one way or another...I'm confident! At least we have Obama!
    One Christian (Orthodox) who feels alienated (outsider) by the Evangelicals.

    November 19, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  15. Palin-Romney 2012

    I`ll support Paul but I wouldn`t support Kucinich.Oh and Franken...go home you lost the people of Minnestoa don`t want your far-left rhetoric.

    November 19, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  16. Daniel

    I also find it funny that the only states that went to "recounts" or were "too close to call" were ones in which Republicans won.

    November 19, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  17. Gay Fooie

    Looks like Minn. has a mandate for the Repubs! Smart!
    Now kick Frankie out of here! It's time for him to scoot!

    November 19, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  18. Tim

    Give it up Franken, this is not another one of your jokes. Washington only needs serious and qualified people, please.

    November 19, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  19. Juan Grain

    Franken-Stien will win!

    November 19, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  20. redneck

    Strange how democrat votes begin to materialize when it is so close!

    November 19, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  21. Ash

    Why is there so much negativity about Franken? He is more than qualified for the Senate!!!

    So what if he was a comedian, so what if he uses humor in articulating his ideas??? He is well read, knowing the issues, and would be a great addition to the Senate, helping not only the state of Minnesota, but the country.

    My fingers are crossed that the election will go for Sen. Franken! Make me PROUD Minnesotans!

    November 19, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  22. a sympathetic Canadian

    you stupid Repugs don't get it, don't you. The LAW requires a recount in that case. Is that too difficult to understand? Of course, the law is only good when it supports your fraudulent causes. Morons!

    November 19, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    In response to 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."

    In Minnesota, it's a fill-in-the-bubble ballot. The questionable ballots are the undervotes; either they didn't vote in the race or they didn't fill in the bubble completely.

    November 19, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  24. Jodi K

    again, a bunch of poeple from other states tellign us we are trying to cheat in Minnesota.

    Your not talking from experience or sense. You have no clue what is going on here, you just spout whatever Rush and Oreilley tell you to. Your all lemmings.

    Al Franken has as much right to be a senator as Regan had to be a president. Wait... Franken actually HAS an education, unlike old senile Ronny. Oh, and HELLO... How about the Governator?

    Yeah, until the republicans get educated you have no place to speak down to your intellectual superiors. Remember, Minnesota is an education state. Our 5th graders are smarter than you high school graduates.

    November 19, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    was franken born in the USA

    November 19, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
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