As Minnesota Recount Ends, Senate Race Still Seeking Finish Line

The statewide hand recount of ballots in Minnesota's Senate race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken ended Friday. but it could take weeks before a winner is declared.

With 99.9 percent of the votes re-tallied, the recount process has stalled because officials still were looking for about 130 missing ballots in one precinct.

"We are hopeful that the physical ballots that are missing in Minneapolis will be found," Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Friday. "They are searching through every box, every conceivable place."

But Coleman's camp argued that Ritchie, who's a Democrat, was too quick to declare ballots were missing from a mostly Democratic-leaning Minneapolis and that there may be another explanation.

"The fact that they immediately concluded that there were missing ballots strikes us as premature," said Coleman campaign attorney Fritz Knaak. "We're just a little concerned -- wary is the word I'd use -- concerned about the actions taken so quickly and apparently without reflection."

Missing votes could determine the outcome of the race. At one precinct, 171 ballots were found and added to the recount.

Coleman held a 192-vote lead after the recount finished. But that doesn't account for more than 6,600 ballot challenges from the two campaigns. The results are muddied further by legal squabbles over Franken's push to include some rejected absentee ballots in the final count.

"Improperly rejected absentee ballots are simply another way of saying uncounted ballots," Franken campaign attorney Mark Elias said, who claims that Franken is the winner by four votes.

Both campaigns have already abandoned more than 1,200 challenges combined and vow to scrap more to expedite the process. Attorneys for the candidates are meeting next week. A state canvassing board meets starting Dec. 16 to decide on those that remain.

Though Franken might make gains in the remaining Minneapolis precinct, it's improbable that he would gain enough to overtake Coleman before the canvassing board begins to examine the challenged ballots.

In the meantime, board members plan to meet next Friday to decide whether to add wrongly rejected absentee ballots to the count.

Ritchie hopes to resolve the race before Christmas. But with both campaigns quick to throw a flag, it could take longer.

FOX News' Carina Sonn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.