Coleman keeps lead in county recount

Lori Nickel, Montgomery Messenger

More than 90 percent of ballots have already been recounted in Minnesota for the US Senate race between Republican incumbent Senator Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken, with Coleman maintaining the overall lead at press time.

With Le Sueur County being one of the last counties to recount, every one of the 14,855 ballots cast on Election Day was reviewed and scrutinized at the Le Sueur County Court House in Le Center on Monday, Dec. 1, and Tuesday Dec. 2, with Le Sueur County Auditor Ron Germscheid and Deputy Auditor Sherri Simon leading the effort.

During the general election on November 4, county residents granted Coleman 1,053 more votes than Franken. At the end of the strenuous two days of reviewing and counting ballots, preliminary numbers show that Coleman will likely keep his lead in Le Sueur County with almost the same number of votes. Coleman received 6,304 recounted votes over Franken, who received 5,255 votes, a 1,049 difference. A total of 22 ballots were challenged and will be sent to the state canvassing board for review on December 16. Simon explained that the numbers will not become official and certified until the challenged ballots are decided.

The recounting process was long, but surprisingly simple and precise, as officials closely followed guidelines from the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office. The ballots were organized and hand counted in order of individual precincts. County Commissioner Joe Connolly first publically unsealed the ballots, then compiled and straightened them so they were all facing the same direction.

From there, a designated Table Official was the only individual allowed to handle the ballots at a table where two Coleman and two Franken representatives viewed them being sorted into three piles labeled Coleman, Franken and Other. If an oval was not filled in clearly by a voter, if there were questionable marks on the ballot, or if the ballot was torn or tattered in any way, a representative could challenge the vote. The ballots were then counted by teams of two Table Officials, recorded and then re-sealed.

It's not unusual to have a voter not marking an oval correctly. County Auditor Ron Germscheid explained to everyone before the recount began. He also added that, Challenges will not be automatic or frivolous. He said that if the intent of the voter was able to be determined, the ballot would be counted. If it was impossible to determine the voter's intent the ballot would be forwarded to the state canvassing board for review and a final decision.

A Lead Representative for each candidate was allowed to walk around the room, overseeing the process at both counting tables and comment on challenges.

To follow continuing coverage on the state recount, visit updates and information posted on the MN Secretary of State website at www.sos.state.mn.us. Click on US Senate and MN Legislative Recount under the Features heading.

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