Despite warnings to keep politics out of Minnesota’s contentious Senate recount, the state’s Democratic secretary of state has granted Minneapolis an extension to continue its recount, following news that 133 ballots are missing.
The voting discrepancy has outraged supporters of Democrat Al Franken to the point that they have suggested authorities should conduct an intensive search of a local church to locate the missing ballots.
The 133 ballots in question were cast Nov. 4 at a church polling place near the University of Minnesota, where voters were thought to heavily favor Franken. Election officials supervising the recount on Wednesday counted 133 fewer votes than had been tallied there the night of the election. Assuming those 133 ballots conform to overall voting trends, their absence is costing Franken a significant number of votes.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Franken’s chief recount attorney, Marc Elias, urged state officials to “move heaven and earth” to locate the AWOL ballots.
On Thursday, lead Coleman recount attorney Frederic W. Knaak sent a letter to Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie charging that Franken seeks “a systematic forensic search of the church that served as a polling place, any vehicle used to transport ballots or other elections materials, [and] the warehouse where the ballots were stored.”
Knaak charged that “the Franken campaign has reached a new level of belligerency in their efforts to ‘unearth’ votes they believe they ‘lost’ in Minneapolis.”
In a separate statement Thursday, Knaak asked that Ritchey “refrain from any activity or action that can be perceived as partisan or supportive of the Franken campaign’s overblown rhetoric about missing ballots, and the need to ‘raid’ churches in the City of Minneapolis.”
That did not dissuade Ritchey from granting a recount extension to Minneapolis to give it extra time to locate the missing ballots.
Ritchey also dispatched his assistant, deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann, to assist in the search and to act as an official observer.
The latest official vote count shows Coleman leading by 251 votes. That total, however, does not include the more than 6,000 votes that have been challenged during the recount process. Franken’s campaign has been keeping an unofficial tally of those votes, and maintains that Franken actually has a narrow lead in the recount despite the official figures being reported by election authorities.
The State Canvassing Board is scheduled to meet on Dec. 16 to determine the fate of those ballots and to certify a winner.
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