Franken camp says they're ahead 22 votes
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday December 3, 2008

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Update below: Dem demands recount extension after ballots lost

Al Franken's senate campaign says the Democratic candidate has pulled ahead of Republican incumbent Norm Coleman for the first time since the recount began.

The campaign's internal tally shows a Franken lead of 22 votes, campaign attorney Marc Elias told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. (Independent tallies by local newspapers still show Coleman holding the lead.)

Plan to drop 600 ballot challenges

Elias also said Franken's campaign would be withdrawing 600 challenges of ballots, conceding that the votes clearly were meant for Coleman. The two campaigns had challenged more than 6,000 votes between them, and Elias encouraged the Coleman camp to drop some of its ballot challenges.

Franken picked up 37 votes Tuesday night when elections officials discovered 171 ballots that had been uncounted.

The Franken campaign's internal estimate is based on tallies from observers at recount locations and the assumption that a canvassing board will not reverse the votes on any challenged ballots. Coleman's campaign had challenged about 200 more ballots than Franken's, which Elias said depressed their numbers in other estimates. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Minneapolis Star Tribune was reporting that the margin was at 303.

Elias compared the challenge process to instant replay in a football game. Sometimes instant replay will overturn a call, but it also often confirms that a call on the field is correct. The same dynamic is in play with an independent canvasing board's upcoming review of ballots in the recount; an on-site election judge determined which candidate the voter intended to support and the opposing campaign had the option of challenging that determination.

The Franken campaign believes it will net more votes than Coleman after the challenges are determined, but for now it's assuming the on-site judge made the right call.

"It's more sensible to start with the proposition that they're probably correct," Elias said.

Update: Franken camp says 133 ballots lost in Minneapolis

The Franken campaign has written to Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie demanding an extension to the recount, alleging that ballots in Minneapolis have gone missing.

Franken's campaign said numbers provided by Minneapolis Elections Director Cindy Reichert show that 133 ballots disappeared between Election Day and Wednesday, when the recount had been expected to end.

"This is an incredible breach of the democratic process: 2,029 voters had their votes recorded on Election Day, and now local officials are able to produce only 1,896 ballots," Franken Communications Director Andy Barr said in a release. "That makes 133 residents of this one precinct in Minneapolis whose voices were just effectively silenced by this serious error, and it must be corrected before anyone can consider this recount complete or accurate."

Reichart says she will keep the recount open until the discrepancy can be corrected.