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Published December 31, 2008, 12:00 AM

Counties take another look at absentee ballots

Local county officials fought off recount fatigue Tuesday as they faced the final stretch in Minnesota’s marathon U.S. Senate election – taking yet another look at absentee ballots that might have been mistakenly rejected.

By: Kyle Potter, The Forum

Local county officials fought off recount fatigue Tuesday as they faced the final stretch in Minnesota’s marathon U.S. Senate election – taking yet another look at absentee ballots that might have been mistakenly rejected.

After sifting through rejected absentee ballots last week, officials had sent the secretary of state’s office a list of those they found should have been counted.

On Monday, they heard back on those ballots – 1,350 statewide – and found out Republican Norm Coleman’s campaign wanted them to reconsider another 654 ballots across the state.

Officials braced for a series of meetings with representatives of the campaigns and secretary of state’s office this week to try and agree on which ballots should count. By the latest unofficial overall count, Democrat Al Franken leads Coleman by 50 votes, out of the millions cast on Nov. 4.

Clay County Auditor Lori Johnson’s office in Moorhead hosts such a meeting today at 10 a.m. Johnson’s office had forwarded a list of 29 mistakenly rejected ballots to the secretary of state’s office. Johnson said the campaigns had agreed those 29 ballots should be counted.

However, an hour and a half after the 3 p.m. Monday deadline to consider additional absentee ballots, her office received the Coleman campaign list of objected ballots, which included four Clay County absentee ballots.

Later that evening, Johnson also received an e-mail from Democrat Al Franken’s campaign. It strongly objected to considering those additional ballots. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie sided with the Franken campaign, citing the missed deadline.

Still, Johnson said her office will meet with the campaigns to look into the four ballots: “I am fairly certain they will be rejected.”

But over in Wilkin County, auditor Wayne Bezenek said that after consulting with the secretary of state’s office, he does not intend to consider the one rejected absentee ballot on the Coleman list from his county.

“They’re behind, what else can I say?” he said. “When you’re losing, sometimes you do desperate things.”

Bezenek will, however, attend a Fergus Falls meeting today with campaign reps to determine if two absentee ballots his office had deemed wrongfully rejected should be counted after all.

Polk County Auditor Gerald Amiot said his county has seven rejected ballots they deem valid, but the Coleman campaign objected to two of those. Amiot’s office is hosting a meeting at 10 a.m. today to try to reach agreement.

Otter Tail County found two wrongfully rejected ballots. Mahnomen, Becker and Norman counties found none.

After this week’s meetings, the counties will send the ballots everyone agrees should be counted to the secretary of state’s office.

The state’s Canvassing Board is slated to meet Monday and Tuesday to decide on any challenges.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529

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