[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/25/art.mnrecount1125.ap.jpg caption="Thousands of ballots are being challenged in an automatic recount that will determine the winner in Minnesota's Senate race."]
(CNN) – As the recount resumes this morning in Minnesota, the number of ballots being challenged is growing: Nearly three-quarters of all votes cast in the state’s Senate race have been recounted in the battle for Norm Coleman's seat. The recount, which kicked off last Wednesday, could extend into next month.
Unofficial results from the November 4 election put Coleman, a freshman Republican senator, just 215 votes ahead of 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 progressive radio network Air America. 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 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota.
Election officials at 107 sites across Minnesota are in the middle of the long process of recounting all of the ballots, surrounded by election observers and lawyers from both campaigns, and the media.
The Secretary of State's office reports that 2,801 ballots have been challenged so far, with 1,401 questioned by Franken's camp and 1400 questioned by Coleman's camp.
According to the Secretary of State's office, 74.18 percent of the more than 2.9 million votes cast in the election were recounted through the weekend. Coleman's vote today is down 1,051 votes from his Election Day total, and Franken's is down 1,008 votes — which puts Coleman's current margin at just 172 votes.
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. If one side is unhappy with those results, legal action could follow.
Democrats have so far picked up seven Senate seats in this year's election, with the Republican seats in Minnesota and Georgia still undecided. In Georgia, freshman Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss faces off in a runoff election on December 2 against Democrat Jim Martin, a former state lawmaker.
If the Democrats take both remaining contests, they'll reach their pre-election goal of controlling 60 Senate seats, a filibuster-proof majority. A filibuster is a move by the minority party in the Senate that basically brings the chamber to a standstill by blocking votes on legislation.