Minneapolis election officials are calling off the search for 133 ballots missing in the bitterly contested race between incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken.
City spokesman Matt Laible announced the city is suspending its search. He added that the matter will now be turned over to the State Canvassing Board.
For the past week, city officials have been scouring a warehouse in northeast Minneapolis for the missing ballots. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the missing ballots come from Ward 3, Precinct 1 in the city’s Dinkytown neighborhood, a heavily Democratic area near the University of Minnesota.
If the missing ballots aren’t included in the recount, it would cost Franken a net loss of 46 votes.
The State Canvassing Board may decide to accept the original tally that was taken at the precinct the night of the election, despite the fact that the ballots have subsequently gone missing.
Coleman currently leads Franken by 192 votes out of approximately 3 million ballots that were cast, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Associated Press. That 192-vote lead assumes that Franken and Coleman are granted all of the votes originally recorded in Ward 3, Precinct 1 on the night of the election.
In another development, election officials across the state today began segregating any absentee ballots that may have been erroneously excluded from the Election Day tally.
Some 12,000 absentee ballots were disqualified because they were improperly completed. It is unknown how many of those ballots, if any, were disqualified improperly.
State election officials also must decide the fate of some 6,000 ballot challenges filed by both campaigns during the recently completed recount process.
Franken’s campaign said Monday it is withdrawing another 425 challenges, bringing its total of withdrawn challenges to approximately 1,000.
Coleman’s campaign has dropped about 650 challenges so far.
The Canvassing Board will meet later this month to begin ruling on the remaining ballot challenges, the excluded absentee ballots, and other election issues, before certifying a winner.
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