Observing a recount

When the recount begins on Wednesday, it marks the beginning of the end to the heavily contested U.S. Senate race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken . Representatives from the campaigns will be able to observe the recount process when it begins, and theyâÄôll be able to challenge decisions from the election officials as they are made. Starting Wednesday, each ballot will be sorted by an election official at one of more than 100 sites across the state. The ballots will go into piles based on candidate, or based on challenges by the campaignâÄôs representatives. There will be five piles, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said at a press conference Monday âÄî one each for Coleman and Franken, one for votes cast for other candidates, and one each for challenges from the campaigns. Ritchie said he expects there to be little debate between the campaign representatives, though there may be what he called âÄúpolitical posturing.âÄù âÄúDetermining voter intent is relatively simple and not that controversial,âÄù Ritchie said. âÄúGenerally speaking, when you look at a ballot, you know what a voter had to say.âÄù Observers will look to make sure election officials are counting ballots based on voter intent. According to Minnesota statutes , ballots will count if the voter made their choice clear, even if they didnâÄôt properly fill in the bubble next to a candidateâÄôs name so optical scanners could read the ballot. That means even if a voter put an âÄòXâÄô through the box or circled the candidateâÄôs name, the vote will be counted. Ritchie said he estimates two in every 1,000 votes are filled out in a way that ballot scanners canâÄôt read them. That equates to about 6,000 ballots. âÄúThe votersâÄô intent is the guideline to the recount,âÄù he said. Challenged ballots will be brought to the stateâÄôs canvassing board for final judgment on Dec. 16. The Franken campaign sent an e-mail to supporters last week asking for people to volunteer to observe the recount. Campaign spokeswoman Jess McIntosh said over 1,000 people attended training sessions across the state last weekend to learn how to be representatives for the recount. The campaign will have volunteers observing in shifts, as only one volunteer can observe at one time. âÄúEverything that weâÄôre doing, weâÄôre doing in the service of making sure the votes get counted properly,âÄù McIntosh said. ColemanâÄôs reelection website also asked for recount volunteers, and in an e-mail, campaign spokesman Luke Friedrich confirmed they were also training observers. âÄúWeâÄôre thrilled with the support of volunteers across the state who want to ensure an open and transparent recount of all legally cast and counted ballots from Election Day,âÄù he said in the e-mail.