61 ballots show up, 4 missing in Becker County Senate recount
DETROIT LAKES — The math didn’t add up during the first day of the U.S. Senate recount in Becker County on Monday.
In addition to 61 ballots that weren’t counted on Election Day on Nov. 4, there were four less ballots counted from Holmesville Township during the recount than was reflected on Election Day.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation,” Becker County Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen said.
He said that the ballots were overlooked and not transferred to the counting area on election night. They did arrive at the county courthouse by 8 p.m., Tangen said.
Fifty-three of the ballots came from mail-in precincts and eight were absentee ballots.
Those missing ballots, if allowed to stand, will play a huge part in a race in which 215 votes separate Norm Coleman and Al Franken.
Coleman carried Becker County by 2,400 votes in the original count.
Tangen said that the advice given to him by the Becker County Attorney’s and the Minnesota Secretary of State’s offices were to count the 61 ballots.
They are separated by precinct and counted when that precinct is recounted. Tangen said that they will still be segregated from the rest of the ballots in case any challenges come up as to their validity.
The issue surrounding the four missing ballots from Holmesville Township is under investigation, Tangen said.
“We went over it a few times, but it still came up to the same number,” election judge Louann Gerdes said out loud to Tangen and other officials.
Tangen said that he’s working with the township clerk to see if the four missing ballots are around somewhere.
“They could be in the ballot box, but it’s a pretty slim chance,” Tangen said to observers from Coleman’s and Franken’s campaigns.
The ballots from Holmesville Township currently at the courthouse will not be resealed right away. Tangen said that if they are resealed, it’s tougher to amend the recount since resealing the ballots means that they are recertified.
Without the four ballots, Coleman loses 3 votes and Franken loses 1 vote.
There has been one challenge so far in the two hours of recounting. It comes from the Coleman campaign.
Tangen said the issue is a vote that is marked clearly for Franken, but the oval for Coleman appears to be covered by correction fluid.
The basis for the challenge is that it would be an overvote that would invalidate the ballot as far as the Senate race is concerned, since the marking could indicate a vote for both Coleman and Franken.
Day one of the recount is due to finish by 4:30 p.m. today and continue at 8 a.m. Tuesday.