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Coleman-Franken recount: Franken withdraws more challenges, expresses concern on ‘fifth pile’

Marc Elias, Al Franken’s recount lawyer, said this morning that the Democrat’s campaign has withdrawn an additional 425 challenges of ballots.

With 633 withdrawn challenges last week, Franken has now pulled 1,058 of its 3,280 challenges of ballots.

Despite the official tally by the secretary of state’s office on its website showing a 192-vote margin for incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman, Elias reiterated today his view that Franken remains ahead in the Senate recount by four votes.

But he called into question the use of the 192 figure. That’s because the 1,058 Franken withdrawals — and previously announced 650 Coleman challenge withdrawals – have now fudged the bottom line. Some of the challenges involve votes for other candidates, including Independent Party candidate Dean Barkley.

Without identifying them, Elias said some counties are not following a request by the secretary of state’s office to begin separating rejected absentee ballots into five piles.

That request came after a meeting of the State Canvassing Board last month; the four piles are for each of the four statutory reasons to reject absentee ballots, and the fifth is for ballots rejected for other, perhaps illegal, reasons.

“Let me be clear, “ Elias said, “an absentee ballot that was not rejected for one of the four legal reasons is, in fact, nothing more than an uncounted ballot.”

On the 133 missing Minneapolis ballots, Elias agreed with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie that if the ballots are ultimately not found, the machine tape from that precinct from Election Night should be used.

MinnPost has calculated that likely would give Franken a net gain of more than 30 votes.

In addition, 12 absentee ballots – most likely from military personnel – were found in the Minneapolis election warehouse. Elias called on Minneapolis to open those ballots and count them.

“These 12 ballots have never been rejected by anyone,” he said.

At the time of this posting, the Coleman campaign had not responded to Elias’ comments.

Still, the recount continues … big-time.

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