A ballot-by-ballot audit of the results that originally gave U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., a paper-thin lead over his challenger, liberal comedian Al Franken, isn’t moving either candidate’s total much.
The county-by-county tally precedes the official statewide recount that begins on Nov. 19, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
As of Monday, Coleman’s lead had slipped from 725 votes out of about 2.9 million cast Nov. 4 to 204 Monday. That original slim margin triggered the need for the Nov. 19 recount.
The newspaper described the audit as a sneak preview of the statewide recount, reporting that 20 men and women at the Ramsey County elections office in St. Paul started Monday morning checking 7,700 of the ballots cast in the Senate race on Election Day.
After the first three hours of counting, Coleman had lost one net vote in five of the county's precincts, while Franken had gained one. On Election Day, Franken garnered 52 percent of the vote in the urban county, to Coleman’s 34 percent.
"You take the ballots out, you count them by hand and you report the results — exactly what we'll be doing” with the recount, Joe Mansky, the county elections director in charge of what is known as a "postelection audit," told the Star Tribune.
This audit process functionally is meant to check the accuracy of Minnesota's optical scan voting machines and is not related to the Nov. 19 recount.
"Every vote is counted, by hand, with only election judges and elections staffers touching them," the paper wrote, explaining that the whole process is open to the public and takes place in the presence of good-government volunteers and operatives of the two campaigns.
"I'm just watching like everyone else," John Stiles, a DFL spokesman who had staked out one corner of the conference room, told the Star Tribune. "It all seems pretty straightforward to me."
Coleman volunteer John Nygaard said, "It's very transparent. I'm impressed. I didn't realize how much work went into this."
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