19Recount update FOR WEB/MD/kh/

By Matthew Stolle

Counting ballots can be a grinding, eye-glazing affair. Such was the case at Mayo Civic Center’s Grand Ballroom on Wednesday, where Olmsted County officials dutifully began the hand count of 76,000 ballots cast in the race between Sen. Norm Coleman and Al Franken.

But those long, paint-drying periods of the U.S. Senate recount could be broken up by moments of tension, as when election officials had become aware that 40 ballots were missing from one precinct.

Suddenly, a clutch of tense expressions and worried looks — as well as county election officials and Coleman and Franken representatives — had gathered around the unlucky table, as if a bad bet had been placed on a roulette wheel.


Eventually, the missing ballots were found. They had been "write-in ballots" separated by from the main pile, put in a supply box, and locked up in the elections room at the city-county Government Center, where they were later retrieved, officials said.

Mark Krupski, Olmsted County director of property records and licensing, attributed the mistake to simple human error on election night.

"There are 700 election judges, and sometimes, with that many people, after a long day, people don’t always remember to do things the right way," Krupski said.

The incident underscored how a process designed to double-check the work of voting machines also includes an unquantifiable amount of human error.

Despite the mishap, the recount progressed — with fewer dramatic moments. With 25 percent of ballots recounted, the totality of deviations amounted to three extra votes for Coleman and one extra vote for Franken. The original tally in Olmsted County after the Nov. 4 vote was 35,332 for Coleman and 28,592 for Franken.

The Senate recount was ordered by the state Canvassing Board after Coleman was found to have a 215-vote margin over Franken out of 2.9 million votes cast, triggering an automatic recount.

Officials had hoped to complete the recount in a single day, but were acknowledging by midday Wednesday that the goal was probably unrealistic. They talked of picking up the recount on Friday at Mayo Civic Center’s Riverview Suites. There was a possible scheduling conflict on Thursday, which would account for a Friday to finish.

Often the counting went on its own humdrum way until counters discovered a discrepancy. At one table, counters discovered a discrepancy in one precinct that subtracted two votes from Franken and gave one to Coleman.


"It’s definitely a little bit of an Adrenaline rush. You have a lot of eyes on you," said Chris Goodman, an Olmsted County election official.

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