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Franken gains from uncounted Ramsey ballots

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DFL Senate candidate Al Franken gained some ground in the recount of his election battle with Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, after Ramsey County officials found 171 previously uncounted ballots.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Democrat Al Franken has gained 37 votes on Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate recount, after Ramsey County found 171 ballots that weren't counted on election night.

Ramsey County elections chief Joe Mansky says the ballots were in a machine that broke down early on Election Day in Maplewood's 6th precinct. 

"The election judges apparently didn't run some ballots through the ballot counter after their ballot counter had gone down during the day. So, we had apparently more ballots in the box than we had on the tape," said Mansky. 

Ballot counting machine
A ballot counting machine.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

      Mansky says the ballots were never lost, just not counted the first time through. He says they have been secure all along.

        "That's why we do the recount," Mansky said. "That's why we're doing everything by hand - so we can discover those kinds of errors."

 Franken gained 91 votes from the crop of ballots, and Coleman gained 54.

      Coleman's attorney, Fritz Knaak, said the campaign accepts Mansky's explanation but had lawyers double-checking the numbers. "We're looking into it," he said.

      Marc Elias, Franken's attorney, said the revelation of new ballots underscored the importance of making sure that every vote is counted. 

"This is precisely why we have urged, as strongly as we have, every election official -- at the county level, at the state level, everyone -- look for any ballots that might be missing."

      In a letter, the secretary of state's office directed Mansky to prepare a special report on the discovery for presentation to the Canvassing Board next week.

      "We would like an explanation from you as to how this error was made and went unnoticed until now," Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann wrote. "Given the magnitude of the difference, we request that you take steps to re-verify the number of individuals who voted in Maplewood Precinct 6, to reassure both this office and the public that these newly found votes were validly cast."

      Ramsey County, the state's second-largest, finished its recount on Tuesday; all of the state's 87 counties are supposed to finish by Friday. A belt of counties where Coleman fared well on Election Day were due to start their recounts Wednesday.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)