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Minn. recount heads to '09

A state board is likely to meet on the disputed Senate race as the new Congress convenes.

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota voters won't know who won the state's U.S. Senate race this year, and it's looking likely that the new Congress will be sworn in before the race ends between Democrat Al Franken and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.

The state Canvassing Board yesterday scheduled a Jan. 5 meeting, and its chairman said the panel's work could spill into Jan. 6 - the day the next Congress convenes.

Franken leads Coleman with an increasingly small number of ballots yet to consider. Franken finished the day up 47 votes, according to a preliminary report by the secretary of state's office.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, said there was no way the board would certify a winner this year.

For the second time in two weeks, the state Supreme Court got involved in the election, this time hearing arguments over ballots Coleman's campaign claims were double counted.

Coleman's campaign disputed the allocation of some challenged ballots and called some of the board's rulings inconsistent. It said correcting the errors would have produced a 49-vote swing in Coleman's favor.

Franken's campaign has also brought some potential errors to the board's attention, which it says amount to 43 potential votes in the Democrat's favor.

The board is to meet Tuesday to consider the allocation report.

In court yesterday, Coleman attorney Roger Magnuson argued that dozens of voters in 25 precincts, mostly in Democratic-heavy Minneapolis, might have got two votes.

They had ballots that couldn't be fed through counting machines, so duplicates were made by election judges. Coleman's team alleges that both duplicates and originals made it into the recount.

The campaign urged the court to reconcile the number of voters with the number of ballots and disqualify ballots where there is a mismatch.

Franken's attorney Bill Pentelovitch said that granting the Coleman request would force officials in all of Minnesota's 4,100-plus precincts to redo the recount.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, the vote totals could shift again when state officials open as many as 1,600 absentee ballots that were incorrectly rejected on Election Day.

Franken's campaign fought for their inclusion, but it is anyone's guess how those votes will break.