Franken Campaign Claims It's Closing In on Coleman

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Al Franken's campaign says Sen. Norm Coleman's lead has fallen into the double digits as the state continues its Senate recount, The Hill reported.

"We believe that Al Franken has gained enough votes to say that Norm Coleman's lead is in the double digits," Franken campaign attorney Marc Elias told The Hill.

The Franken team is using a tally from their election observers, which they claim is more accurate than that of Minnesota's secretary of state.

Franken's observers reported he has enough votes to cut Coleman's lead to fewer than 100.

Franken's tally, however, included challenged ballots where local officials ruled on voter intent. Those rulings can be overturned by the State Canvassing Board.

Both campaigns said Friday they'll review the hundreds of challenges they've made so far in the recount -- and withdraw some -- before the state Canvassing Board meets.

Minnesota's Senate battle is one of two that are unresolved, with Georgia's headed for a Dec. 2 conclusion.

The mounting pile of challenged ballots is becoming a significant factor in the overtime Senate race. It has nibbled into the vote totals of Coleman and Franken compared with the precinct-by-precinct counts on Nov. 4.

At dueling news conferences Friday, both campaigns accused the other of overzealous challenges. They held up examples of ballots that have an obvious mark for their candidate and no other disqualifying attributes.

Elias ran through a stack of 10 photocopied ballots from Fillmore County, where Coleman volunteers lodged 27 challenges. Some that included Franken votes on the same ballot as a presidential vote for Republican John McCain were challenged on the basis of "voter intent."

"It must be heartbreaking for the people down there that there are people who voted for John McCain who didn't also want to vote for Norm Coleman," Elias said.

Hours later, Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan addressed reporters in a room where the walls were plastered with more than 50 copied challenged ballots from Meeker County that they called frivolous. Most had Coleman's oval clearly filled in but were flagged anyway.

Sheehan accused Franken's volunteers of making excessive challenges to whittle away the 215-vote lead Coleman held going into the recount. Challenged ballots don't figure into each candidate's vote total as results are reported daily by the secretary of state. In the first two days, Coleman's lead dropped.

As of Friday evening, the secretary of state's margin was at 115, a comparison made possible because counties are reporting recount numbers that compare directly with their precincts' Nov. 4th results.

However, those numbers are expected to shift daily until the counties complete their work. The final outcome will likely rest on the 1,525 ballot challenges filed so far by the two campaigns.

The challenged ballots are due to be taken up by the State Canvassing Board December 16th.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.