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Daily Glean: Family ballots: microcosm of absentee voting problems

A voting-challenged family in McGregor illustrates what could -- and did -- go wrong in the U.S. Senate race. Kevin Duchschere and Pat Doyle of the Star Tribune found that the couple and the wife's aunt, who all live together, had one vote accepted and two rejected through a "combination of good intentions, faulty assumptions and misinformation." They all used absentee ballots, but there were problems with the registration cards and all three were initially rejected. They became part of the vote total tug-of-war, and now the husband's ballot is one of the 400 to be counted this week. The other two: still rejected. And the paper says all three voted for Al Franken.

The Minnesota Independent notes that Franken has been invisible lately, at least compared with Norm Coleman, who's been busy doing the conservative radio and TV circuit. But they found Franken Saturday night on the sleety streets of downtown Minneapolis with a group of Communication Workers of America Local 7250 who were picketing in an impromptu informational session after their contract with AT&T expired at midnight. Franken was with U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Paul Begala, the CNN commentator and former aide to President Clinton. They were coming from the  DFL Party’s annual Humphrey Day Dinner at the nearby Hilton Hotel.

And Politico reports that there's one group that just loves to see the Franken/Coleman marathon continue into extra innings (excuse the mixed metaphor): Washington fundraisers, who are riding a gravy train. They're thrilled at reports the race could go far beyond this week's vote count -- maybe even for years. "Coleman and Franken have raised more than $12 million between them since the election, mostly to pay their mounting legal bills. But they aren't the only ones raising money off their fight — it's also viewed as a potential cash cow by non-combatants who are trying to milk it for everything it’s worth," says Politico.

Missing men often don't get the same media attention as missing young women, but everyone was all over the story of Dan Zamlen, a University of St. Thomas freshman who left a party early Sunday and was talking on his cell phone while walking near the Mississippi River. About 2:30 a.m., according to the  Pioneer Press, he told friends on the phone: "Oh, my God. Where are you? Help," and the phone went dead. He'd been drinking but shouldn't have been because he has Type 1 diabetes, friends and family told the Star Tribune. WCCO-TV reported that the family from the Iron Range drove down Sunday to help in the search for the young Eveleth man. KSTP-TV notes a State Patrol helicopter made low passes along the river searching for signs of Zemlen.

Who's guarding the Courthouse? The Pioneer Press notes that because of budget cuts, there are no security guards at certain hours in the St. Paul City Hall/Ramsey Courthourse. It's up to the janitors on duty to make sure the doors are locked and to call 911 if there's a problem. This is a far cry from the very strict security set up during the day -- including metal detectors and a phalanx of guards to protect the judges and their courtrooms.

The parents of the North Dakota woman imprisoned in Iran did get to see their daughter for a half hour this morning, according to an AP report in the Strib and elsewhere. The parents of Roxana Saberi talked with her at Evin prison for the first time since finding out in February that she'd been arrested for working in the country after her press credentials had expired. The parents couldn't be reached for comment, but their lawyer reported: "They said Roxana was in good health and in good spirits." U.S. officials continue to work for her release.

Here's one you won't find online: The Star Tribune, continuing its quest to offer something special for subscribers to the print edition, led the Sunday paper with "The Fall of Denny Hecker" by Dee DePass. It looks at the ubiquitous and oft-vilified auto magnate's career as he built an empire with annual sales of $6.8 billion. But he's been forced to close 17 of his 26 dealerships in the past year. There's a great line -- from a guy who knew Hecker when he was just getting started and Hecker was selling used cars at a weekly auction. He recalls Hecker "screaming and cursing when the auctioneer didn't get the price Hecker thought it deserved. 'He was a kid throwing a tantrum. That is Denny Hecker, through and through.' " The Strib apparently will put the story online later in the week but wants to save some exclusives each week for the tree-killer edition.

Channel 5 looks into a small fire set in St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis last month and wonders if it is connected to a string of fires set at the church 12 years ago. Surveillance video shows someone setting the small fire -- which was soon stomped out by a passer-by --  but doesn't capture the man's face. Just before the incident, a church worker saw someone who might have been the culprit in the previous fires.

Not everything is flying off to Atlanta: The new Delta in-flight publication, Sky Magazine, is being published here, the Strib reports. That's great news for printer Brown Printing of Waseca, paper supplier UPM-Blandin of Grand Rapids and Minneapolis-based MSP Communications, which will produce the magazine with a 605,000 monthly press run.

Sports: The Twins start their final season in the teflon Dome tonight, vs. Seattle. To start the day, the team handed out Dome Dogs early this morning in front of the stadium in preparation for the sold-out opener. The Wild lose a heartbreaker in the final minute at Detroit, which could also prove to be the season-breaker. The Timberwolves lose again to Denver, but announce they'll hire a general manager after the season. Yeah, that's the problem.

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