Franken campaign demands 'forensic' search for missing ballots
Nick Juliano
Published: Thursday December 4, 2008

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Franken camp says lead down to 10

Al Franken's Senate campaign demanded an intensive search for more than 130 missing ballots Thursday and said the Democratic candidate's lead over Republican incumbent Norm Coleman is down to 10 votes.

Campaign lawyer Marc Elias told reporters Thursday that 56,000 votes remain to be counted of more than 2.4 million cast in the Minnesota Senate race.

The 10-vote margin does not include a Minneapolis precinct where 133 ballots were lost. Elections officials in the precinct are keeping the recount open while they search for those ballots. Elias demanded an "intensive and thorough" search for the missing ballots.

"That doesn't mean [just] looking around the office," he said. "They should conduct a systematic, forensic search of the polling location, any vehicles that were used to transport those ballots and the warehouse where they were stored."

Reporters pressed Elias on what the campaign would do if the ballots were not found. He would say only that the campaign is keeping all its options open and that he was optimistic the ballots would be found.

"I don't believe that 133 ballots walked off," he said. "We're not walking away from 133 votes."

Later Thursday, Franken's campaign said Minneapolis elections director Cindy Reichert revealed that a missing envelope, marked "1/5," contained the 133 missing ballots.

"We're glad that Minneapolis elections officials now acknowledge that these ballots are missing, and that they are committed to finding them. To fail to do so would disenfranchise 133 Minnesota voters and call into serious question the integrity of this election," said Franken spokesman Andy Barr. "The Secretary of State's office has rightly recognized the importance of this matter by giving Minneapolis officials the time they need to locate this envelope. Simply put, these ballots must be found."

Also on Thursday, Coleman's campaign decided to withdraw 650 ballot challenges following a similar move by Franken's campaign the day before.

The Franken campaign's estimate of its margin is based on observations from poll watchers on-site at recount locations. The campaign also assumes that a state canvassing board will not overturn the inital judgements of elections officials on any of the nearly 6,000 ballots being challenged. Tallies from local newspapers continue to give Coleman a lead of several hundred votes.

With relatively few votes remaining to be counted, the Franken campaign believes its margin will remain fairly unchanged. However, with so many ballot challenges, the outcome of the race could change depending on a state canvassing board's decisions later this month. Franken's campaign has said they may go to court if they are unsatisfied with the canvassing board's decision or may ask the US Senate to intervene.