With word out of Alaska this week that incumbent Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving member of the Senate, lost his re-election bid to Democratic challenger Mark Begich, all eyes turn to Minnesota's seemingly never-ending battle for a Senate seat between Norm Coleman and Al Franken.
As Minnesota entered the second day of the official state-wide recount, Democratic challenger Al Franken appeared to be gaining votes on incumbent Republican Norm Coleman. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Coleman's lead has shrunk to just 136 votes, down from 742 on Election Day.
Republicans have kept up the drumbeat of voter fraud allegations against Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat who reportedly had close ties to the Association of Community Organizations for Reforn Now (ACORN), who was frequently suspected of voter fraud by Republicans in the run-up to the election. Ritchie had been accused of failing to properly oversee the recount by critics who find it suspicious that Franken has picked up large quantities of votes in heavily liberal sections of the state. Republicans have also reportedly begun distributing a three-page primer on Ritchie to the media, which criticizes him for having spoken at the Democratic Convention and for his connection to ACORN. Democrats, however, charge that it's not surprising that Franken has picked up more votes then Coleman, as the under-educated and the elderly, both of whom are more likely to vote Democratic, traditionally cast more undervotes than any other group.
With the election hinging on a difference of only dozens of votes, both sides have begun the painstaking process of challenging ballots that appear to be ambiguous, mismarked, or otherwise inconclusive, with both sides arguing that the vote should to to their candidate. On Wednesday, Ramsey County Elections Manager Ray Mansky was ordered by a county court to turn over information on absentee ballots that were rejected to each campaign. Neither campaign has made public how they plan to use the information.
As of Thursday evening, approximately 18% of the total ballots in Minnesota have been recounted by hand.