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Minn. Recount recap: Franken makes some gains with found ballots

Ramsey County found 171 ballots yesterday and it seems to be something to celebrate for Al Franken. Norm Coleman's lead dropped to 304 votes from a 344-vote lead yesterday, according to the Secretary of State's office. The Star Tribune puts the gap at 303 votes. 

It was a slow recount day with only 1.6 percent of the votes being counted yesterday. So does this give Franken a new advantage?

FiveThirtyEight says that since their last post giving Coleman the advantage, "Al Franken has gotten three pieces of good news which cloud the picture and may tilt the probabilities in his favor." 

They say that the Franken's campaign claim of being just 50 votes behind, the 171 found ballots and the SOS decision on absentee ballots all helped put Franken in a better place. 

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Coleman's camp as well as the SOS is of course quite suspicious of these new ballots and is looking into how these votes weren't counted during the official count. 

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office immediately asked county officials to explain what had happened, and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign said it sent its own experts to Ramsey County to review the situation and said it was "skeptical about [the ballots'] sudden appearance." Two large metro counties, Scott and Wright, are among four counties scheduled to begin their recounts today.
For the country, the Minnesota race isn't quite as important after Georgia's runoff yesterday. Rupublican Saxby Chambliss took the seat, which means the Democrats can no longer get a 60 fillibuster-proof majority. 

As the actual recount ends Friday, the challenged ballots are the next issue. SOS Mark Ritchie is asking the two campaigns to drop some of their challenges as the number continues to get excessive, according to Minnesota Public Radio

The rejected absentee ballots also might get a second chance. The SOS asked precincts to separate the rejected ballots into five piles for possible counting, according to the New York Times.
They are to be organized into five piles, four of which would contain ballots rejected for reasons set out by the state. The fifth pile would include ballots that were dismissed but did not appear to meet state standards for rejection. 
"At this time we are not asking you to open or count the votes contained in any of the five categories of rejected absentee ballots, nor are we asking you to compile a list of names and addresses of the absentee voters who have their ballots placed in any of these five categories," Mr. Gelbmann wrote in his letter to elections officials. "We simply are looking for the number of rejected absentee ballots that were legitimately rejected for one of the four statutory reasons and the number of rejected absentee ballots that were mistakenly rejected by a County Absentee Ballot Board and/or election judges at the individual precincts." 
So what happens after the ballots are sorted? Members of the state canvassing board are awaiting a decision from the attorney general's office about whether they have the authority to open and count those mistakenly rejected ballots. If they do, the board could order those votes to be tallied when it reconvenes on Dec. 12.