Franken campaign still concerned about 'missing' ballots

A stack of challenged ballots
A stack of challenged ballots awaiting the Ramsey County Elections Director, Joe Mansky's approval in St. Paul, MN November 20, 2008.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

Al Franken's lead recount attorney, Marc Elias, said as many as "several hundred" ballots have gone missing between the finalized machine count and the hand recount. Elias told reporters during a conference call, those ballots need to be found and counted for the election to be properly decided.

"There are numerous instances where the number of recorded voters does not equal the number of ballots counted in the recount," Elias said. "That means the ballots were counted on Election Day but were not included in the recount."

In Woodbury's 7th Precinct, recount workers came up 29 ballots short of what the machines tallies said were counted. Woodbury's 7th Precinct is in Washington County, and it was not the only Washington county precinct that came up short.

Kevin Corbid, who oversees elections in Washington County, said Oak Park Heights ended up with a discrepancy of 13 ballots. He said the City of Grant was off by ten.

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But, Corbid said just because the numbers are off does not mean any ballots have disappeared.

"Can I tell them exactly what happened in those precincts? No," Corbid said. "But I think it's less likely that there's missing ballots and it's more likely that there was a group of ballots counted twice for some reason."

Corbid said ballots can be repeatedly counted after voting machines get jammed. If proper procedures are not followed, an already counted ballot can be rescanned.

Corbid said one reason the numbers might be relatively high in his county is that many residents voted by absentee ballot. Because absentee ballots are folded to get them into envelopes, Corbid said they're more likely to jam the machines when election workers begin feeding them in.

But Elias, from the Franken campaign, is convinced there's more to the story.

"It is one thing to say that there is a vote here or a vote there that is off do to a machine jam," Elias said. "It is another thing to say that there are 24 or 29 votes that are missing I mean that's a lot of jamming it seems to me higher than likely that's there result of a machine jam."

Elias said he asked the Secretary of State's office to ask counties where the number of hand-counted ballots falls short of machine totals to search for any missing ballots. Corbid said the Secretary of State's office sent him an e-mail last week asking him to do just that. But he said he's turned up no so-called "missing ballots."

Republican Senator Norm Coleman's campaign dismissed Franken's "hundreds" of missing ballots claim.

Spokesman Tom Erickson said the Franken side is clearly worried that Coleman is on track to win the recount, and is setting the stage to challenge the election results in court or in the U.S. Senate.

"When you make these wild accusations, as the Franken campaign is, you're not only insulting our dedicated elections officials but also insulting the entire electoral process here in Minnesota," Erickson said.

The State Canvassing Board is expected to meet sometime this week to talk more about how to treat rejected absentee ballots. The Franken campaign wants wrongly excluded absentee ballots included in the recount.