Typo correction brings Franken closer to Coleman

4:19 AM, Nov 7, 2008   |    comments
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The vote gap between Senate candidates Norm Coleman and Al Franken fluctuated throughout the day Thursday, with Franken closing to within 236 votes by Thursday evening. The fluctuations are normal, said a spokesman at the Secretary of State's office, as county's double check their work and report minor changes. A typo in Pine County got fixed Thursday, giving Al Franken 100 more votes and tightening Minnesota's unresolved Senate race even tighter. Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's lead over Democrat Al Franken stood at 236 votes Thursday night. With nearly 2.9 million ballots cast, the difference between the top two candidates is about one one-hundredth of a percentage point. In Pine County, an election official accidentally entered 24 votes for Franken on Tuesday night instead of the 124 he actually received. The mistake was caught on Thursday and the numbers changed, said Jim Gelbmann from the Secretary of State's office. KARE 11 News has also learned Ramsey County found 55 absentee ballots which arrived on time to be counted on election day, but which were not. Those results have now been included in the new totals. In northeastern Minnesota, the town of Buhl's ballots had been cast but not counted in statewide totals. It turns out election officials there counted the votes but never called them in. St. Louis County Director of Elections Paul Tynjala said officials tried to call Buhl for the results, but everyone had already gone home. He calls the incident a "goof-up" in which someone thought someone else had already called in the votes. Buhl finally reported its results at 8 a.m. Wednesday. And the results still didn't clarify the winner between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. Mary Markas, one of Buhl's election judges, explained what happened. She said local election workers had just begun counting ballots Tuesday when the announcement was made that Barack Obama had won. "The hand counting had just started and they already announced Obama was president and that's kind of demoralizing," she said. "We felt bad about that because we wondered if our votes even counted." Nonetheless, Markas said the Buhl votes were counted. She and others called a few media outlets and a couple of candidates with the results. Then they went home, without phoning the results into the county, which passes them to the state. By early Wednesday morning, with Coleman ahead by less than 1,000 votes, all eyes turned to Buhl. "It just goes to show that when you think your vote doesn't count, it does count," said Markas. Election official Mike Buchanan said that when Buhl election officials arrived a work at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, "we received a phone call from St. Louis County -- they wanted our election numbers." They got them. Coleman received 152 votes in Buhl and Franken got 343, for a difference of 191 in the Democratic candidate's favor. Not enough to change the results, but enough to tighten the contest even more. "If you think about it, what if Al Franken had been behind by 190 votes?" Markas said. "The Buhl votes would have won him the election." The final tally won't be certified until the state canvassing board meets Nov. 18, and an automatic recount awaits. Franken says the recount of votes in his U.S. Senate race should proceed in order to make sure that every vote is counted properly. Coleman has declared himself the victor in the race and said Wednesday that Franken should consider stepping aside. But Franken said on Minnesota Public Radio Thursday morning that "candidates don't get to decide when an election's over -- voters do." Franken says if the recount determines he lost, then "I'll be the first to congratulate Senator Coleman." Click here for updated results.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press and KARE 11. All Rights Reserved.)

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