From Raw Story:
As of Thursday night, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s official lead over Democratic challenger Al Franken had shrunk to single digits, with 5,861 challenged ballots remaining to be counted.
But a newspaper’s count of remaining challenges suggests Franken will end up the winner.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, having just wrapped its own count of the ballots in question, predicts a final margin of just 89 votes, in Franken’s favor. A Franken win would give Democrats 59 Senate seats.
In addition to the challenged ballots, MN’s Supreme Court has ordered the campaigns, the Secretary of State, the county auditors and the canvassing boards to develop a process to identify and count wrongfully rejected absentee ballots.
This is something the Franken campaign has been pushing for, since they believe more of the rejected absentee ballots will be for Franken than Coleman.
There’s a lot left to be resolved, but at the moment all signs are pointing toward a Franken victory.
UPDATE: Franken has officially taken the lead, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
As it stands, Franken is leading Coleman by 197 votes.
UPDATE II: The Coleman camp is getting desperate–they’ve filed a legal brief bringing up the specter of “duplicate” ballots.
But the Franken campaign is saying it’s a non-issue, and they’re noting that the Coleman campaign’s current position on “duplicate” ballots is the opposite of their previous position.
UPDATE III: You can watch live streaming video of the state Canvassing Board processing the challenged ballots here.
Currently, Franken is ahead of Coleman by 260 votes; the Star-Tribune has adjusted their projection and now predict that Franken will win by 77 votes.
UPDATE IV: The Canvassing Board just made a decision that almost guarantees this will wind up in court.
The Coleman campaign was making an issue of “duplicate” ballots–Minnesota uses optical scan voting machines. Voters fill out paper ballots, which are then fed through a machine which reads the ballot and tabulates the results.
But if the machine can’t read a ballot, poll workers fill out a new ballot identical to the one that won’t go through; usually, the original is supposed to be marked “original” and the duplicate is supposed to be marked “duplicate.” Coleman’s camp alleges that there were instances where the originals and duplicates were not clearly marked and ended up mixed in with other ballots, thus ensuring that some individual’s votes were counted twice.
The Coleman campaign had 300-400 ballot challenges based on this, alleging that those challenged ballots were duplicates and needed to be reviewed. The Canvassing board just ruled that the determination of whether or not ballots are duplicates or double-counted is outside their jurisdiction and, as a result, threw out those 300-400 challenges.
Thus, if Franken’s final margin of victory at the end of the canvass is less than 400 votes, it’s almost certain Coleman will take it to court and have them determine the issue of “duplicate” ballots.