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In Minnesota, the work is not over for two Senate campaigns. Volunteers and lawyers for Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken will be fanning out across the state to observe the recounting of every vote by hand. That's because Coleman leads Franken by only a little more than 200 votes, and that triggered an automatic recount. As Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Scheck reports, the two campaigns are gearing up for what could be a heated battle.
TOM SCHECK: Republican Senator Norm Coleman's only public appearance came on the morning after Election Day. Before a crowd of supporters and staff, he announced that he won the election.
Senator NORM COLEMAN (Republican, Minnesota): Where we are today after a pretty long night is me being humbled and grateful for the victory that the voters gave us last night.
SCHECK: But Al Franken says, not so fast. Since Election Day, Coleman's lead has shrunk to 200 votes out of about 2.9 million cast.
Mr. AL FRANKEN (Democratic Senatorial Candidate, Minnesota): Candidates don't get to decide when the election is over or who won. The voters do. And Minnesota's Senate race isn't over until we know that every vote that was cast is properly counted.
SCHECK: The recount means that an often brutal and nasty two-year campaign will continue for at least another month. At Kopplin's Coffee in St. Paul, opinions of the recount range from frustration to civic pride. While Margie McCreedy(ph) says she wants an accurate vote count, she's ready to know the winner.
Ms. MARGIE MCCREEDY: Fast, quick, and be over it, you know, because this has gone on for so long. Negative campaigns, everybody's kind of tired of that thing. So it'll be good to get over it.
SCHECK: At a different table, Terry Mullin(ph) says he's expecting the recount and a possible court challenge to drag on because tens of millions of dollars have already been spent to win the seat.
Mr. TERRY MULLIN: I mean, $35 million, or how much they spent on this campaign. No one is going to give up easily.
SCHECK: Both campaigns have lawyered up and established special recount funds. They say they may have to raise upwards of a million dollars each for the effort. Campaign attorneys are also questioning the election process. Franken's campaign wants elections officials to reconsider some rejected absentee ballots. Coleman's campaign says it's suspicious that Franken has gained hundreds of votes since Election Day.
Secretary of state Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, said it's common for the vote count to change until the results are certified. He says elections officials find errors when they review the reports and add misplaced ballots. He invites Republicans to provide proof of any illegal activity.
Secretary MARK RITCHIE (Secretary of State, Minnesota): If people want to accuse county election officials of partisan activity, they'd better be ready to back it up.
SCHECK: Ritchie says the recount will begin next week on the local level. Until then, county officials are taking unusual steps to protect the ballots. Some, like Douglas County Auditor Tom Reddick, are being secretive.
Mr. TOM REDDICK (Auditor, Douglas County): Well, they're locked in a secure room in the courthouse. There's only two keys to the room. And I'm not going to tell you where that room is.
SCHECK: Others are securing the ballots in county jails. McLeod County auditor Cindy Schultz says her county attorney suggested the ballots be moved there for added protection.
Ms. CINDY SCHULTZ (Auditor, McLeod County): They said, put them in jail, and that way they're guarded all the time. The cameras will be on them, and nobody will go in. So, based on that recommendation, I did it.
SCHECK: Secretary of State Ritchie hopes the recount will be done and the election certified by December 19. Though after that, campaign attorneys could still challenge the election results in court. For NPR News, I'm Tom Scheck in St. Paul.
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