Secretary of State makes challenged ballots public

One of the challenged ballots made public by the Secretary of State's office Monday.
Courtesy of the Secretary of State's Office

With more than 90 percent of the votes in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race recounted, the campaigns of Republican Norm Coleman and DFLer Al Franken have challenged nearly 6,000 ballots.

But a Minnesota Public Radio News analysis shows many of those challenges are frivolous.

State law says a vote can be counted, even if the voter didn't make a mark in the oval, as long as the mark is "so near a name or space as to indicate clearly the voter's intent." But is this mark in between Coleman's bubble and Franken's close enough to either one?
Courtesy of Secretary of State

The Minnesota Secretary of State's office has released copies of 1,000 of the contested ballots so far, and in the vast majority of cases it's easy to tell whether the voter intended to vote for Coleman or Franken.

Minnesota state law lays out rules for determining a voter's intent, and it says if the ballot is valid and the intent is clear, then the vote counts. Minnesota Public Radio reporters used those guidelines, and examined all 1,000 ballots.

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About 350 were clearly votes for Coleman. 330 were clear Franken votes. Another 100 or so wouldn't go to either candidate under state law. That left only 206 ballots where the law didn't provide clear guidance about what to do with the vote.

The Coleman campaign challenged this Laona ballot because the voter was "inconsistent" in the way they marked it, sometimes using an 'X' and sometimes filling in the oval, too. But state law says it's OK to be inconsistent: "If a voter uses two or more distinct marks, such as an (X) and some other mark, a vote shall be counted for each candidate or response to a question marked."
Courtesy of Secretary of State

The Coleman and Franken campaigns have tacitly acknowledged that there are a number of frivolous challenges. Both campaigns say they intend to withdraw some of their challenges over the next two weeks. All the remaining challenged ballots then have to go before the State Canvassing Board on Dec. 16, which will have to review and rule on them one by one.

It took Minnesota Public Radio News about five hours to examine 1,000 ballots.

Follow the link to judge the ballots.