With more than 92 percent of the recount now complete, Sen. Norm Coleman’s lead over Democratic rival Al Franken has stretched to 340 votes, an increase of about 70 votes in the past 24 hours.
While 70 votes is a fraction of the nearly 3 million votes cast in the election, every vote could be critical to Coleman’s hopes of heading off a U.S. Senate investigation into Minnesota election procedures. Such a review could take months to resolve.
“Size matters,” Larry J. Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics tells Newsmax. “The key is whether Coleman can maintain a decent lead — a couple of hundred votes — after the recount and the decisions on the thousands of disputed ballots.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has warned Minnesota election officials that they “must ensure no voter is disenfranchised.” That has been widely seen as a signal that the Senate could intervene if Franken loses by a minuscule margin.
A spread of less than a hundred votes would make it easier for Reid and Senate Democrats to refuse to recognize Coleman’s reelection, if state officials do certify him the winner later this month, as now appears likely. Senate intervention could prove costly, however, and would stir up partisan rancor and resentment.
Friday is the deadline for completion of the recount, and legal challenges are expected.
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