Monday, January 5, 2009

Franken To Be Declared


By Todd Melby

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Democrat Al Franken will be declared the winner of the tight U.S. Senate contest in Minnesota, emerging from a ballot recount with a slim margin over Republican Norm Coleman, state officials said on Sunday.

But Coleman, the incumbent, has asked Minnesota's supreme court to require that a few hundred additional absentee ballots be included in the recount -- and he could then ask the court to investigate the contest all over again.

"At the moment, Franken has a 225-vote lead," after the weekend counting of what were deemed the last uncounted absentee ballots, said Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat who oversaw the process.

Ritchie said unless the supreme court acts on Coleman's request and orders more ballots to be counted, he will reconvene the state's Canvassing Board on Monday to certify Franken as the winner of the November 4 contest.

Even so, Coleman's campaign said it will likely challenge the result, which would require the state supreme court's chief justice to appoint three judges to investigate its claims.

Hundreds of absentee voters were "disenfranchised," other votes were double-counted, and still other ballots that went missing were counted anyway, Coleman's campaign manager Cullen Sheehan said in a statement.

"We remain convinced that this process is broken, and as a result, the numbers being reported will not be accurate or valid ... (It) clearly means that a contest is the only likely remedy to ensure a fair outcome," Sheehan said.