ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A Ramsey County judge ruled in Al Franken's favor Wednesday in a hearing over absentee voter ballots in Ramsey County.
Click here to read the complete ruling
Franken wanted access to the names of people who's absentee ballots were rejected. At issue was whether that information is considered public.
Judge Dale Lindman ruled that information is public data, and that it be released immediately.
"With each passing hour, the Franken campaign is irreparably harmed in its efforts to ensure that each valid vote is properly counted and to prepare for the procedures that will decide this election," Lindman wrote.
Meanwhile, the bitter fight for Minnesota's U.S. Senate seat is carrying over into the statewide recount.
A volunteer observer for Republican Norm Coleman was asked to step out of the recount room in Ramsey County when he loudly questioned Democrat Al Franken picking up three votes in one precinct.
Meanwhile, Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky overruled three challenges from the Coleman campaign as frivolous. Franken's campaign withdrew one challenge after that. In all, eight ballots were challenged in Ramsey County in the early going.
A Coleman attorney challenged another Franken ballot because it had writing on it. By Minnesota law your ballot is disqualified if you try to write your name or any other identifying mark on it, such as a phone number.
She declared loudly, "Someone's written their name on this ballot! I'm challenging it!"
The elections department employee explained to her that the name was written in one of the "WRITE-IN" slots.
"We don't know who that is. If it's in the write-in area we let those go because that could be a candidate they're voting for."
They put the ballot in the pile to be re-examined later.
In Minneapolis, six tables were set up for the recount. Two election judges, two Coleman observers and two Franken observers sat at each table.
Observers on both sides are challenging ballots in Minneapolis.
At 11:10 a.m., Minneapolis election officials decided the groups should be looking at both sides of each ballot to see if there are any identifying marks. So workers and observers had to go back and look at ballots that were already counted.
The city will review about 200,000 ballots during the recount.
In St. Louis County, 14 ballots were challenged by around midday Wednesday -- three by Franken observers and 11 by Coleman watchers. Some of the ballots had a lighter marking for one of the candidates and then a darker marking for the other.
And in Norman County in far northwest Minnesota, three absentee ballots were challenged because an election judge's signature or initials were not where they were supposed to be. Two of those challenges came from the Coleman campaign, and one from Franken's people.
Coleman held a 215-vote lead in unofficial results. The recount is expected to drag into mid-December.
(Copyright 2008 by KARE and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)