Minn. Senate Race Far From Over

By Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 8, 2008

The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota is nowhere close to being decided, state officials said yesterday.

The recount in that election will not be completed until mid-December, and even then, a candidate or voter can challenge the outcome, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. Sen. Norm Coleman (R) held a 239-vote lead over Democrat Al Franken as of late yesterday. That margin of less than 0.5 percentage points triggers an automatic recount under Minnesota law.

Ritchie said he would hope to finish the recount by Dec. 19. But that process cannot begin until the election results are certified Tuesday.

Franken said on Minnesota Public Radio that he will not waive the recount. "This is the closest race in Minnesota history, the closest Senate race and the closest race anywhere in the country. This is just part of the process to make sure every vote is counted," he said, adding: "Candidates don't get to decide when an election's over -- voters do."

Minnesota voters use paper ballots, which will be reviewed first at the local level to determine voter intent, with an elections official and an observer for each candidate on hand, if the candidate so chooses. The votes are tallied, but any ballot that is challenged by an observer will be shipped in a sealed envelope to the state canvassing board, which would begin its recount Dec. 16. The state canvassing board by law consists of two state Supreme Court justices and two district court judges and is chaired by the secretary of state. The board certifies the general-election results.

Two other U.S. Senate races also remain unresolved. Georgia will hold a runoff between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin. Chambliss fell just short of the 50 percent mark in Tuesday's voting. A result is still pending in Alaska, where Sen. Ted Stevens (R) ran for reelection against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) despite his felony conviction last month of failing to report gifts.

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