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Coleman's Lead Dwindling in Minn. Senate Race

Thursday, 18 Dec 2008 01:06 PM

Incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman’s narrow lead in the Minnesota Senate race against Democrat Al Franken is plummeting rapidly, as the state’s Canvassing Board accelerates its ballot review and races toward a Friday finish.

Coleman began the day with a lead of 358 votes. As of 1 p.m. Thursday, with approximately 500 of the ballots challenged by Coleman having been reviewed, that lead had dwindled to just 195 votes out nearly 3 million votes cast on election day.

Franken was expected to cut deeply into Coleman’s lead Thursday, because all Franken ballot challenges were completed Wednesday. That means only challenges to votes for Franken, as well as challenges to ballots awarded to neither candidate, are now under review.

As challenges by Coleman are rejected, the votes are being awarded to Franken. About 500 challenged ballots remain to be reviewed and awarded.

The pace of the Canvassing Board review accelerated markedly on Thursday, as the five-member board becomes more and more familiar with the standard by which ballots are being evaluated. Some ballot reviews are being reviewed and awarded to Franken after only a few seconds of deliberation. The fate of other ballots is being discussed for a minute or more, before a vote is held on who should be awarded that ballot.

The Canvassing Board hopes to wrap up its review by Friday. However, board members are waiting for a state Supreme Court ruling, expected to come at any time, on whether as many as 1,600 improperly rejected absentee ballots will be added into the vote totals.

Franken’s legal team has asked that the ballots be counted, while Coleman’s representatives are looking for the Supreme Court to issue an injunction that would order a halt to the tallying of those ballots.

One reason for the rush in Canvass Board proceedings: The U.S. Senate has established Jan.6 as the date when it will convene to seat its new incoming members. If Coleman wins by a narrow margin, sources say, the Democratic-controlled Senate may not accept the Minnesota results.

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