Franken up by 4 votes after hand count, campaign says
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday December 5, 2008

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Al Franken's campaign says the Democratic senate challenger is up by four votes after completion of a hand recount in Minnesota.

All precincts in the state had completed their recount except for one Minneapolis polling place where 133 ballots have gone missing since Election Day. Franken campaign attorney Marc Elias said he was optimistic that the ballots would be found.

The ballots are believed to have been in an envelope marked "1/5" on Election Night, and local officials are searching for that envelope. Elections officials turned up four other envelopes -- marked 2/5, 3/5, 4/5, and 5/5 -- and 133 more people signed in on Election Day than there were ballots during the recount.

The hand recount in that precinct is still technically ongoing while the search for those ballots continues. Elias scoffed at claims from Republican incumbent Norm Coleman's campaign that the ballots might not be missing at all.

"I'm pretty sure there's no one here now who genuinely believes these ballots are not missing," he said during a press briefing Friday afternoon.

The four-vote margin Elias claims Franken is ahead by assumes the ballots will eventually be found in the Democratic precinct. With the hand-count of ballots complete (aside from those 133), state election officials will move on to considering some 6,000-plus challenged ballots. Elias predicted Franken would pick up votes once a canvassing decides on the challenges, beginning Dec. 15. But the campaign's margin assumes none of the challenges by either candidate will be upheld. Other estimates continue to show Coleman in the lead.

Talking Points Memo reported Friday that the Secretary of State's office could restore the missing votes even if the envelope is never found by reverting the count in that precinct to the numbers recorded on Election Night, when the ballots were first counted.

Elias also said the campaign hopes to have up to 1,000 absentee ballots it believes were improperly rejected included in the final count.