Franken Leads in New Minnesota Ballot Count

Posted December 22, 2008 at 5:57pm

Comedian Al Franken (D) is leading Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) by a few dozen votes, according to incomplete and preliminary numbers released on Monday.

Franken held a reported 48-vote lead over Coleman on Monday, when the secretary of State added more than 6,600 withdrawn challenged ballots to the count. That slim margin, however, will likely fluctuate in the coming days as officials add as many as 1,600 improperly rejected absentee ballots to the final tally.

Additionally, Coleman’s campaign has filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court on “double votes” that could affect another 150 ballots — the vast majority of which the Republican’s attorneys believe went to Franken.

In a statement, Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan called Franken’s lead “artificial” and warned the recount is far from over.

“The fact that over 100 votes have been double-counted, overwhelmingly benefiting Al Franken, simply underscores the fact that their lead is not real,” Cullen said. “Along with seeking a remedy to that problem tomorrow at the Supreme Court, there are still over a thousand rejected absentee ballots that remain outstanding. So while the secretary Of State’s spreadsheet shows an artificial lead for the Franken campaign, it is based on votes that do not exist — in essence votes that have been counted twice.

“Additionally, we are still reconciling our numbers with the spreadsheet and we have already identified some discrepancies. We have no doubt that when these issues are properly resolved, Sen. Coleman will be re-elected to the Senate.”

Franken’s campaign announced Saturday that its internal tally showed a 35- to 50-vote lead over Coleman before adding the wrongfully rejected absentee ballots to the mix. The Democrat’s campaign also maintains those absentee ballots will break for Franken, though Coleman’s campaign said it has no reason to believe that will be the case.

Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr said he was pleased with Monday’s numbers.

“Coleman would have to win a pretty big margin among those absentee ballots compared to this margin overall (to win),” Barr said. “We doubt that there’s going to be such a large swing. We feel like we’re on track to win this thing.”

The state Supreme Court has ordered local officials to amend their recount reports to include the wrongfully rejected absentee ballots by Dec. 31, after which the campaigns will be able to challenge those ballots. It is highly unlikely that the process will finish before the new Congress is sworn into office in January.