After five days officials in a Minneapolis college town called, and I’m not making this up, Dinkeytown have called off their search for 133 missing ballots. As reported last week:
Still eluding the searchers was their main object — the 133 ballots cast in a Dinkytown church, placed in an envelope, shipped to the warehouse and subsequently AWOL. Elections officials thought the envelope was hiding somewhere among the voting machines, collapsible stands, shelving and boxes in the warehouse on Harding Street NE. Minneapolis election officials, joined by Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann, clean-election advocates and others, rolled the voting machines one by one across the floor, hoping to find an envelope underneath.
Five days of rolling the machines back and forth have turned up nothing so they have given up the search. It is not known however whether or not the ballots will be declared legally dead.
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Search for missing ballots called off
By BOB von STERNBERG and MARK BRUNSWICK
Star Tribune December 8, 2008The missing 133 ballots in a Minneapolis precinct are going to stay missing – at least for now. City spokesman Matt Laible said today that officials had suspended the search for the ballots that began after they turned up missing in the waning hours of last week’s U.S. Senate recount. The matter will be turned over to the state Canvassing Board, which will decide whether the 133 will be officially counted, Laible said. The ballots at issue are from the Dinkytown neighborhood, a heavily Democratic area, and a comparison of Election Day results and recount totals indicates that not counting them could cost Franken a net of 46 votes. That has prompted his campaign to complain loudly about the disappearance. The campaign of Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, however, expressed skepticism that the ballots were truly lost. After the discovery of the ballots’ disappearance Wednesday, city elections officials scoured the warehouse in northeast Minneapolis where the recount was conducted, on the belief that the ballots, in a single envelope, had made it from the church to the warehouse. Franken’s campaign also complained today that several counties are balking at separating out crucial rejected absentee ballots in the U.S. Senate recount, saying the process is necessary to ensure that persons casting votes be accurately counted. The counties were asked to separate rejected absentee ballots by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office as a way of determining why the ballots were rejected. Counties were told to separate the ballots into five piles: a pile for each of the four legal reasons for rejecting a ballot and a fifth pile for ballots rejected in error or for some other reason.
“Let me be clear, an absentee ballot that was not rejected for one of the four legal reasons is nothing more than an uncounted ballot,” said Franken campaign attorney Marc Elias this morning. “It is deeply concerning that some counties are refusing to determine whether they have uncounted ballots among their previously rejected absentee ballots.” Elias refused to name the counties. John Aiken, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said at least five counties — Ramsey, Washington, Itasca, Freeborn, and Sherburne — have declined to separate their rejected absentee ballots, several on the advice of their attorneys. Kevin Corbid, director of elections for Washington County, said the county stood ready to begin the sort but was advised early today by its attorneys that the sort might appear to favor one campaign over the other. Originally, the county received an opinion that it could not be forced to do the sort but could do so if it chose.
Our attorney’s office became more and more concerned about the process we were going to do and the fact it may look like we were picking sides in this on-going battle. We decided to cancel our review,” Corbid said. The county already had begun the sorting process and will be providing an overall number to the Secretary of State’s office. The county has about 400 rejected absentee ballots. The issue is likely to come up on Friday at a meeting of the State Canvassing Board. Aiken said the board could use information from the 55 counties that have agreed to separate their ballots as well as from the state’s largest cities to determine how large an issue the rejected ballots are. More challenges pulled In another development today, the Franken campaign said it is pulling back another 425 of the ballots it’s challenging in the recount, bringing the total it has withdrawn to more than 1,000. His campaign challenged almost 3,300 ballots during the recount of 2.9 million ballots cast in the election, but last week he withdrew more than 600. He has now repealed nearly one-third. Campaign attorney Marc Elias says he doesn’t know how many of those canceled challenges will turn into votes for Coleman and how many were unclear ballots where Franken was trying to win a vote. Coleman’s campaign has announced it would give up 650 challenges, leaving him with 2,750. When Election Day totals are put side by side with the recounted tallies, Coleman holds a 192-vote lead. The five-member state Canvassing Board will meet Dec. 16 to begin reviewing the disputed ballots.