Shortly after the state canvassing board reconvened this morning, Al Franken moved into the lead for the first time during the U.S. Senate recount. The Democrat’s lead grew to more than 250 votes by the time the five-member panel broke for lunch, and it should continue increasing throughout the day. The canvassing board is scrutinizing ballots challenged by Sen. Norm Coleman’s campaign and is expected to conclude the process today.
Franken’s emergence as the frontrunner comes with a number of caveats. Most notably, the running tally does not include ballot challenges that have been withdrawn by the two campaigns. Since the Democrat’s camp has withdrawn a greater number of disputed ballots, it’s likely that the Republican will benefit disproportionately when they’re added to the tally.
What’s more, the Coleman campaign returned to the Minnesota Supreme Court this morning over the issue of potentially double-counted ballots. The Republican’s camp has argued that in some cases (roughly 150 total) both original and duplicate ballots have been mistakenly included in the tally and wants the court to enjoin the canvassing board from certifying the election results until the issue is resolved. At least one local election official, Cindy Reichert of Minneapolis, seems to agree that double-counting may have occurred. The Franken campaign maintains it’s not an issue. The canvassing board voted unanimously this morning not to get involved in the matter, prompting the Coleman campaign to seek redress in the courts.
“We are disappointed the Franken Campaign would not join us in finding a resolution to this serious problem,” said Fritz Knaak, an attorney for the Coleman campaign, in a statement. “Unfortunately, without that resolution, the State Canvassing Board has made it clear they will have to count some Minnesotans’ votes twice. This means that millions of other Minnesota voters are being disenfranchised by the influence of hundreds of duplicate ballots that simply should not be counted.”
The Franken campaign countered with a statement of its own. “This is just the latest desperate act by a campaign panicked because it has suddenly realized that it is going to lose the election,” said communications director Andy Barr.