[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/19/minnesota.senate.race/art.coleman.franken.gi.jpg caption="The recount of Minnesota's Senate race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, left, and Democrat Al Franken will stretch into next year."]Minnesota's Supreme Court has approved a request by the campaigns of incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken to extend the deadline local election officials and the two campaigns have to finish sorting through improperly rejected absentee ballots to January 2, from the previous deadline of 31.
The canvassing board will have until January 4 to count the ballots, which will be delivered to the state unopened and uncounted, for voter privacy purposes.
That date doesn't mark the race's finish line: Both campaigns would still be able to challenge the state's count beginning the next day.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/19/art.mnballot1219.gi.jpg caption="Franken holds a narrow edge over Norm Coleman as counting continues."]MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) - Democrat Al Franken is expected to hold a lead of 48 votes over incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, according to an ongoing tally kept by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and by Minnesota's state canvassing board, which is expected to release a formal announcement Tuesday morning confirming an early draft released by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office Sunday night.
Franken and Coleman are locked in a tight battle in the single remaining unresolved U.S. Senate race in the country.
The Franken campaign had predicted over the weekend that they'd come out on top by 35-50 votes.
In a statement, Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan said, "Al Franken’s ‘lead’ is artificial and this process is still a long way from being complete," and that their campaign has "already identified some discrepancies" in the secretary of state's numbers.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/20/art.ballot1.gi.jpg caption="The Franken team said they expect him to come out on top when the Senate race recount ends."] MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) - Democrat Al Franken's team said Saturday that after all challenged ballots have finally been sorted, they expect to come out on top with a 35 to 50 vote lead.
Franken currently holds a slim lead over Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman in the continuing Minnesota recount - the sole U.S. Senate contest still unresolved.
Marc Elias, the Franken team's lead recount attorney, said in a press conference that the approximately 4,000 withdrawn challenges from both campaigns yet to be added to the current numbers by the state canvassing board have already been included in the campaign's internal count.
"Al Franken will have a lead of between 35 and 50 votes. And, at some point not too long after that, Al Franken will stand before you as the Senator-elect from Minnesota," Elias said.
(Update after the jump: The Coleman camp fires back)